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Fred Armisen Gets Hip-Hop Crash Course on ‘Portlandia’

Carrie Brownstein educates her clueless partner-in-crime before Jay Z concert

In real life, Fred Armisen is a musician, a bandeader on Late Night With Seth Meyers and a man of impressively varied music taste. But on his IFC comedy series, Portlandia, he’s absolutely clueless when it comes to hip-hop history. In this sketch from Thursday’s episode, partner-in-crime Carrie Brownstein wants Armisen to join her at a hip hop show, so she – quite hilariously – schools her friend on the genre’s major movements.

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Brownstein means business, so she starts at the very beginning – late-Seventies New York City. But Armisen is already flunking Hip-Hop 101 minutes into the course, asking whether or not the Sugarhill Gang were, in fact, “really a gang.” And it only gets worse from there, with the comedian bumbling around with a loud pair of headphones and throwing out questions like a confused grandpa. “Is this a fad, or is this here to stay?”, he asks his rap tutor, while also pondering whether or not Sir Mix-A-Lot was a member of the “Wu-Tang Clang.”

Other highlights: Armisen attempting to decipher the acronym ODB (which does not stand for “Ol’ Dirty Black Man”), referencing the legendary East Coast-West Coast rivalry between Queen Latifah and 2 Live Crew and asking Brownstein if between-song skits are actually “little plays.”

Of course, all that last-minute cramming pays off: At the show, a Jay Z sound-alike takes a mid-set break to ask one lucky audience member their favorite moment in hip-hip history; a spotlight then descends upon Armisen’s stoic face as he responds… well, you’ll have to watch above.

Portlandia airs on IFC Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST.


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