In Rolling Stone‘s “Song Breakdown” video, Stephen Colbert unearths two unlikely inspirations for Chance the Rapper’s “Favorite Song” (featuring Childish Gambino): legendary fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien and Victorian-era theatrical team Gilbert and Sullivan. “I just want to talk about one verse of the song that really has three very distinctive rhythmic sections to it,” the Late Show host says to open the clip, failing to prepare viewers for the joyously geeky analysis ahead.
“The second verse starts with, ‘Bang bang bang [sic], skeet skeet skeet/ She do that thing for three retweets,” Colbert rap-sings. “The album feel like ’92, now that take ball ‘fore he three-peat/ Chance on acid, cruising on that LSD/ Asked Joseph about my deal; he turned and said, ‘Hell yeah, let’s eat!'”
That particular verse, with its distinctive staccato flow and internal rhyme scheme, lodged its way into the comedian’s subconscious. “That rhythm right there, that was just like a worm in my brain,” he says. “I couldn’t stop listening to that song, and it’s something about the rhythm of that second verse, which repeats again two verses later.”
Colbert pulled out two unexpected influences: the song “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 opera The Pirates of Penzance and a poem from Tolkien’s iconic Lord of the Rings series.
“It’s the same rhythm!” the late-night host enthuses after performing examples. “And you don’t see it a lot of places. It’s a pretty rare rhyme and rhythm scheme because it’s got a lot of internal rhymes within the lines … Whether or not you know it, Chance and Childish, you wrote a song that includes in it this really kind of rare rhyme and rhythm scheme that Tolkien used in the poem that actually influences all of the rest of Lord of the Rings.”