COURTESY KAMARI STEVENS
New Orleans comedian Kamari Stevens premieres The College Dropout Too Dec. 6.
After briefly falling out of love with rap, Kamari Stevens thanks Migos for partially inspiring his latest show, an homage to his conflicted relationship with hip-hop but “sprinkled with a one-man show."
“Granted, they talk about a limited amount of things,” Stevens says. “But can you do it the best? And they can
croon about selling drugs.”
The stand-up comic describes his show, The College Dropout Too: What Rap Taught Me
, as a "TED Talk meets house party," a storytelling performance that’s as much an autobiographical showcase as a personal mixtape brought to life. Stevens premieres the show with music from Blk
at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 at the Hi-Ho Lounge.
“Moving down here and seeing different types of shows, with musicians doing stuff that’s a little more imaginative, made me wanna do something that’s not a typical comedy show,” he says. “I’d go to all these local rap shows, get all these ideas of jokes … But trying to do a local rap reference, like that level of specificity … I just want to do a show where I can just talk about it.”
After a lifetime of growing up making mixtapes and digesting everything inside hip-hop magazines, coupled with “the right mix of Adderall and marijuana,” Stevens came up with the idea of filtering a performance through a rap show.
“I just know too much about the industry to not be a musician,” he says. “I have to expunge that shit from brain. … It’s getting the chance to live out that fantasy. It’s the show 12-year-old Kamari dreamed about.”
After leaving college in Ohio and dissatisfied with jobs at FedEx and in the kitchen at a Red Lobster, Stevens started writing jokes. “I was doing bad, my financial aid dropped and I just couldn't go back,” he says. “A buddy of mine, I told him I always wanted to do stand-up. He said, ‘We should do an open mic.’”
Stevens started writing the next day, but it took him a year to get onstage. “From there, the first feelings I never felt, energized and excited, the adrenaline really hit me, the dopamine, like probably doing heroin the first time,” he says. “After a couple months I couldn't stop … From there you get in touch with the community, find people you can connect with, like I really found a family.”
Stevens moved to New Orleans in 2015 and connected with Young Funny, a collective of local black comedians, and quickly became a frequent and casually fierce presence on local stages. He appeared on Viceland’s stand-up series Flophouse
and BBC’s The Arts Hour
and opened for Kyle Kinane, Sean Patton and Hannibal Buress. But The College Dropout Too
, riffing off Kanye West's introspective 2004 debut, is a departure from Stevens' stand-up, weaving stories though songs while "baring through some stuff, trying to tap into the vulnerability of it," he says.
“I’m trying to be ambitious,” he says. “I want to not be got caught up in ‘I’m trying to make you laugh every minute.’ … I do funny, so I think the show is funny. You’re gonna laugh, but I want to do more of myself than funny.”
Kamari Stevens presents The College Dropout Too: What Rap Taught Me
7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6
Hi-Ho Lounge, 2239 St. Claude Ave.