I’m paraphrasing here, but the great American philosopher Chris Rock once said something along the lines of, “Seinfeld was like Bruce Springsteen on stage; I was like Run DMC — wearing leather, cursing, being raw.”
Again, while that’s not an exact quote, comedians (especially black comedians) have always compared themselves to rappers.
I, however, like Rock, wanted to get a little more specific about it, because when I started to think about it, every comedian has a rapper who’s career perfectly matches theirs (and vice versa). So while Rock is right about comparing himself to a hip-hop legend, he’s wrong about which one.
Chris Rock = Jay-Z
Not only did these guys grow up blocks away from each other in Bed Stuy, but they’re both arguably the best ever at what they do. Most of Rock’s comedy specials have been transcendent with multiple quotables that still hold up today (one of my all-time favorites: “I think all bullets should cost $5,000, cause if a bullet cost $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders”). The same for Jay-Z’s lyrics:
Similarly, they’ve both still been consistently good as they’ve gotten older.
Jim Carrey = Eminem
Both Carrey and Eminem come from trailer-park roots and broke through urban markets as black people loved these white boys as though they’d played bass for James Brown. They also both blew up almost immediately once their names’ became recognizable — Carrey starring in a trio of giant box-office hits in 1994 (Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber), and Eminem having a number one album (the 8 Mile soundtrack) and movie (8 Mile) in the same year (2002) he won an Oscar and Grammy. Neither, however, has really reached such heights again.
Kevin Hart = Drake
Hart and Drake had been around for years, getting overlooked and releasing flops (in Hart’s case, Soul Plane; in Drake’s case, Room for Improvement, which was called “corny”). Still, they both used underground bootlegs and mixtapes to make it to the mainstream. Now everything they drop sells out, which is exactly what they’re considered these days — sellouts.
Dave Chappelle = Nas
Chappelle and Nas have both created a piece of art (Chappelle’s Show and Illmatic, respectively) that’s so timeless that we give them a lifetime pass, even if the rest of their work is alright at best.
Eddie Murphy = Biggie Smalls
Both Murphy and Biggie became stars in their early 20s with freak-of-nature talent and two classic pieces of work (for Murphy Raw and Delirious, for Biggie Ready to Die and Life after Death) before that brilliance abruptly ended — Murphy because he more or less gave up on stand-up, Biggie because he was tragically killed in 1997.
Richard Pryor = Kanye West
It’s important to note that not only did Pryor and Kanye deliver every time their number was called, but they also live(d) an extremely controversial life off-stage that fuel(ed) their work. Or better put, when you hear Pryor talking about shooting his wife’s tires out in Live on the Sunset Strip, it sounds exactly like a track on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Bernie Mac = Big Pun
Outside of the fact that both of these men left us too soon, they both had unorthodox deliveries — Pun with his Spanglish rhymes filled with double entendres and puns, and Mac with his thick Chicago accent and mumble-heavy punchlines. Their resumes also contain a glaring omission — an undeniable 5-mic classic album for Pun and an amazing one-hour special for Mac.
Tiffany Haddish = Cardi B
Haddish and Cardi B both escaped harrowing pasts — Haddish grew up in foster care and had a mentally ill mother; Cardi B grew up in the projects and started stripping to escape an abusive boyfriend — that they now use as material. Haddish uses her fear of the girls in her group home in her infamous stand-up set about getting her ass beat over a bunk bed, while Cardi has women around the world screaming, “I don’t dance now, I make money moves / Say I don’t gotta dance, I make money moves,” an obvious reference to her past as a “stripper hoe getting this schmoney.” Plus, neither of them has truly taken center stage — i.e., Haddish has yet to lead her own film, and Cardi B has yet to drop a solo album.
Katt Williams = DMX
Both Williams and X have distinct voices — Williams’ is high-pitched and whiny; X’s is deep and raspy. Not to mention, unexpected intelligence — Williams’ comedy seems to be about ignant shit, but it’s very political; X seems to be grunting on songs but his music is about spirituality and battling your demons. Finally, even when the world was in the palm of their hands, they still couldn’t outrun their drug problems.
Donald Glover = Childish Gambino
First, they’re both critics’ darlings from whom you never know what you’re gonna get. Second, the resemblance is uncanny.