Throughout the eclectic history of Kanye West’s discography, the superstar rapper has featured an array of comedic voices on some of his most notable songs. From showcasing Chris Rock on “Blame Game” to famously opening his JAY-Z collab “N—-s in Paris” with the immortal words of Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory (“We’re gonna skate to one song and one song only…”), West has made it a habit of expertly dropping in lines from some of the biggest stars in comedy.
Adele Givens is the latest name to join the list, with West turning to a 1992 routine she did on Def Comedy Jam to open “I Love It,” his smash track with Lil Pump. Givens spoke to Billboard from her home in Kentucky about the origins of her raunchy line, getting the phone call from Kanye, and filming its viral music video. “He got a lot of respect from me after I saw the video,” Givens says.
Adele, you’re part of one of the biggest songs in the world right now. How does that feel?
I know. It’s so surprising and shocking. I never thought (it’d be big) it when I wrote that particular line, but my “I’m such a fucking lady” line, I kind of expected it to be iconic because ladies wouldn’t say that back then. Everything else, you know how the world is… so politically correct now, and back then even more so.
I want to know how this all came about. Did you just get a call out of the blue that Kanye wanted to use it?
That’s pretty much it. One of his producers called and asked if I’d like to be featured on a song he had, asking me if I’d want to recreate something I did on Def Comedy Jam. They sent the song and I couldn’t help but laugh. Kanye later called and told me the concept of the video and it was even more creative, so I said of course I’d love to and that’s how it happened.
So you recreated that line in the studio then?
Yeah. They wanted me to do it exactly how I did it before, so they had me listen to the recording from Def Comedy Jam. I mean come on, that was back in 1992. I said, sure, I don’t think my voice has changed that much. I probably wouldn’t say it in that exact way these days, but it wasn’t a problem redoing it.
It’s interesting because Kanye seems to be a fan of comedy, whether with Will Ferrell opening “N—-s in Paris” or Chris Rock in “Blame Game.” And this song itself is a funny song. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken seriously.
Exactly. I’ve really thought that. When he sent me the song I told him it was hilarious and I was saying to my husband that I hoped he didn’t get offended when I said that, but he wasn’t. Most people who take the song seriously are the ones who get offended. “This is women being reduced to hoes!” It’s like, shut up! It’s hoes, not women. You’re the ones who are insulting women when you assume that the ho that he speaks of is a woman. It could be a man!
Do you remember originally, writing the routine, where that line came from?
I do. I vividly remember writing all of that stuff back then because I kind of wrote it with a rebellious attitude. I hung out in pool halls on the West Side of Chicago in the hood. Around me, I had a lot of guys who talked a lot of shit. So felt like I had to prove myself almost all of the time with the guys in the pool hall. I needed to be on their level, I didn’t want to be treated like anything except a peer and I made that happen. I talked the same and I played just as good a game of pool. Not only that, but I come from a big family with eight kids and my mother was a comedian, she just didn’t know it. I was a tomboy and a competitor, so when I got in the world of comedy and brought my mouth with me, people would say to me, “Well, you probably need to tone it done. A lady can’t be received in this way.” But I’d be damned if somebody is going to lecture me on how to be a lady, so I came up with that, “I’m such a fucking lady line.” I had a lot of material to shock and let people know not to fuck with me. I’m a lady and I say what I want to say. I used to have this joke: “I can suck a dick, but I can’t talk about it? What kind of shit is that?” (Laughs) I was really bold with it. My mom would laugh and when I knew she didn’t have a problem, oh boy. I just went all the way there with it whenever I wanted to. Most of (my comedy) was sexual and connected to being independent as a woman. A guy would go up before me and do his 15 minutes with all of the words and be so graphic, and then I’d go up and I’d say “fuck” and the owner of the club or so-called manager would tell me I’d have to tone it down. What the fuck do you mean? You didn’t say that to the other person. I didn’t want to hear that.
It sounds like the classic double standard. Every female comedian goes through it, from Joan Rivers to now, I think.
Absolutely. Females in general go through it, but some of us comedians say, “I don’t think so, buddy. I’m doing this shit too. If you don’t like it, that’s not my problem!” (Laughs)
Do you know how Kanye discovered it? Was he a fan of yours?
Yeah, he called (when he asked me to be in the music video) and told me how much he loved watching me growing up and how he enjoyed my material. He flattered me and I was shocked he thought of me that way. I had met him years and years ago on the set of Def Comedy Jam when it was in Los Angeles, though he seemed nice and meek and quiet and didn’t express that at that time. I was flattered of course, and he’s a fellow Chicagoan so that definitely helped. I wanted to ask him, “Did you ever hang out in the pool hall? I probably won your money one day and you don’t even know it!”
What was it like filming that video?
On the set there was a lot of hurry up and wait; they were making the clothes while I was there. The outfits weren’t made, so Kanye was bringing me fabric asking what I liked. It was fun to watch and be a part of, but I’m one of those ADD personalities; I like to move around, so to be fitted and sit there in the wig (was work). I literally told the girl doing my hair, I don’t see how bitches deal with all of this. It looks beautiful and I love it, but I’m not going through all of that to be beautiful! (Laughs). With Kanye, I could see his sense of humor when he explained how he wanted the video and it came out literally like his vision. I thought, this guy is really good. He got a lot of respect from me after I saw the video.
When the song itself came out it was an instant hit. Are you looking at the numbers or hearing about the reaction it’s been getting?
I did not. I mean, it’s not my area. I was excited to work with Kanye West, but I’m not a student in terms of what it’s doing on the charts. I honestly didn’t care. My agent called and said, “That song has 30 million views” and I didn’t know if that was good or not. I was like, “Ok…” He said, “Why are you not excited?” I said, “Shit, I don’t know. I don’t follow the industry like that.” I’ll hear music on the awards show or whatever, but I just don’t follow it. I left the video and went straight to doing five shows in Tacoma, Washington.
The “I Love It” video, which came out in early September, has 164 million views on YouTube. Here’s a comparison: Beyonce and JAY-Z’s video for “Apeshit” has 120 million since June.
Will I get to meet Beyonce? That’s the important thing.
We have to make that happen! Beyonce, can you hear us? So what’s next for you?
I’m performing, and I’ve been writing and rewriting a film called SKANKHOSE. It’s an acronym meaning Super Kool And Naturally Kinky Housewives Of Social Entertainment. I called it SKANKHOSE, so I don’t have to go through all that. It’s a spoof, like, Real Housewives meets blaxploitation. It’s funny and I hope I can get it cast and filmed.
That has to be at least a little easier after “I Love It” to get made. Maybe Kanye can help fund it.
Yeah, I’ve been trying to get it done for three years now. I’d much rather have some participation from him in terms of helping direct or create the film as opposed to funding because it’s such a great concept and is so funny.
Well, good luck Adele and congratulations on the success of the song!
My husband goes, “Really…You had to make a song for people to see how comedically talented you are?” In this industry, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a great way to live. Especially for a person with ADD.