The Simpsons‘ loving, rap-centric send-up of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, titled “The Great Phatsby,” airs on January 15th. In a recently released behind-the-scenes clip, comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who voices a washed-up-rapper-turned-candle-salesman named Jazzy James, tries out a variety of possible intonations for his character.
According to EW, “The Great Phatsby” focuses on a “hip-hop mogul,” Jay G, who befriends Mr. Burns and turns him into a profligate spender. When Burns hits rock bottom and runs out of funds, Jay smoothly takes control of the nuclear plant. Jazzy James enters the story, along with Praline (voiced by Taraji P. Henson, star of the show Empire), to help get revenge on Jay.
Key’s character was hoodwinked by Jay 20 years ago, which presumably derailed his rap career, but in the brief teaser for the episode, Homer Simpson still remembers his prodigious talents as an MC, referring to him as “the lyrical miracle.” The rest of the short preview clip focuses on Key’s voiceover process – he likes to work from a drawing of a character so he can envision who he’s speaking for – as he dismisses one possible line-reading on the grounds that it sounds too much like Martin Luther King Jr.
“This, I think now, is the pinnacle of my career,” Key says. “I’m done, because I just did The Simpsons.”
“The Great Phatsby” will feature original raps – created with help from Jim Beanz, who also works on Empire – along with cameos from Snoop Dogg, Common and RZA. “We wanted the Mt. Rushmore of rap, and we got it,” Simpsons producer Dan Greaney told EW. “They represent different moods and different aspects of the history of hip-hop.”
More than two decades ago, The Simpsons aired a two-part episode, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” but spread it across two seasons. “The Great Phatsby” will be the first contiguous double episode in the storied series’ history. “This was just going to be a regular episode, but the table read went so well, in a fit of passion and excitement and ambition and excess, we decided to supersize it,” Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman explained to EW. “And we haven’t done a huge amount of stories in the world of hip-hop and rap culture, so we just went for it.”