Honesty, character, and integrity.
None of those words were uttered in my hour plus conversation with comedian Detrone Edwards. However, that’s what comes to mind as I revisit our dialogue. Even over the phone, his command of the topics we covered were steeped in a realism that was as refreshing as it was intimidating. Like Sherriff Bart, Detrone clearly likes to keep his audience riveted.
Growing up in 1970’s Morristown, New Jersey with a large extended family and a single mom, Detrone attributes his love of comedy from the party albums that the adults used to play while drinking and playing cards through his early years.
“Influences at the time were Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley, Skillet & Leroy, Redd Foxx, Paul Mooney. A lot of the stuff that kids weren’t supposed to listen to.”
Describing how he used to sneak behind the speakers, plug in the headphones, his passion for developing laughter became focused at an early age.
Though as his experience in the game continued, Detrone’s linguistic skill set also became a mechanism for both offense and defense. His crew of contemporaries still roast each other to this day. Creatively staying focused, but also keeping each other “humble”, the process of identifying a person’s soft spot and exploiting it is crucial to what Detrone no doubt looks at as a “contact sport.”
But even more than the figurative or literal contact (we’ll get to that in a minute), Detrone invokes the team versus individual sport mentality when it comes to stand up.
“You look at football. Teams lose. You can blame it on the team, blame it on a player, blame it on a coach……but the team still loses. When I’m on stage, and I’m not funny. I can’t say because so and so wasn’t here, no…it’s me. Stand up is a contact sport, it’s a do or die sport.”
Hip-hop has always maintained a close bond with black comics from the days of Fresh Fest to Def Jam to the present.
“Nobody else can keep our schedule except other entertainers, and I hate to say this, strippers and drug dealers. But hip-hop helped drive our scene and I grew up in Jersey, so folks like Flavor Unit, Poor Righteous Teachers, Latifah, Shan, KRS-One, Schooly D. Those folks. I grew up in that era. When hip-hop was created. The real hip hop.”
Outside of stand up, Detrone co-hosted The Light Podcast which among other items paid homage to and reviewed some of hip-hop’s most classic material. Although he has departed from the show, his thoughts on the genre remain laser tight. Especially as it relates to new school emcees and if hip hop respects its own past.”.
“Yes, hip-hop does respect it’s past. But, let’s base it on the kids now. You do have good kids out there that respect adults. And you have other kids that don’t respect anything because their parents were part of that crack era. Mom’s in the house, 25 years old, smoked out on crack. Don’t know who their father is. Then, at 14, 15 years old, they produce a child. Through that lineage, no one has sat them down and taught them how to respect, or who, or what to respect. But you have these other kids that had a grandmother or someone else in the neighborhood, or that village who was there to watch that kid. That kid could be successful. But, when you relate that to hip-hop, you relate it the same way. These kids out there now, they can do their research on what hip-hop is. The different elements, and how it is a way of life.”
And what about the current emcees in the game today?
“Like Young Thug, to me, he’s a clown, he’s garbage. People like that don’t respect old school hip-hop, don’t respect its past. But you get people like Kendrick Lamar. He respects the past. I don’t even think Drake respects the past. He’s just a gimmick emcee. He makes money off being a gimmick.”
As the conversation continued to grow I became immersed Detrone’s words, but in doing research, he remains quite elusive. Especially online. Out of choice as much as anything else, he has yet to fully embrace what many comedians now shy away from.
“Me having videos out, I don’t like it. Joke thieves were huge in the 90’s, still are today. But I just started taping stuff recently. I do a lot of radio. I try to keep it fresh. But the internet is a crazy place, and I’m still coming to terms with what I want to put up. I tour upstate New York, Philly. Doing shows with Barry Ribs. I like Maryland, they’re getting hard now. You gotta make em laugh. It’s crazy though, north vs south. In the north, you can let jokes go for a bit. Let them take their own course. In the south? You gotta hit that punch line real quick. They paid good money, they want jokes on jokes. They don’t wanna wait for that punchline.”
The geographic the cultural divide can be a comic’s greatest asset if focused correctly.
“I’ve been told I have the cross over effect. From black to white rooms. It’s not a problem at all. I started out working white rooms. Real talent has no barrier. I work with Honest John. He’s a white guy that will work a black room with ease. When you’re seasoned, you know how to work any room. When I first started out, I’d do some reconnaissance on the room, like a week before I hit that sage. Check out the crowd, see what the crowd is like. I’d figure out what jokes would work, what wouldn’t. Then I’d mingle a bit. I’m a people person. So, I may introduce myself to some people, say some silly shit, make em laugh and let them know I’d be up there in another week or so.”
Detrone’s penchant for cross-culturalism and breaking down barriers takes on an even stronger clarity when he began to wax about one of his favorites.
“If I could bring any comic back it would be Patrice O’Neal. He crossed every line there was. Every genre. He was one of the greats. He was humble, he was himself, and he also made you think. And he crossed all color lines with that stuff.”
With the advent of podcasts and the explosion of comedy clubs across the country, you’d think that the performance opportunities were at an all-time high. That the popularity of the art form was building a place for all with talent.
“You’d think that, but no. There’s 30,000 comics, but only one mic. Everyone’s a comedian now. But there’s a difference between being “at your job funny” and being an actual comic. To be on stage, you have to be able to know how to write, do expressions, hit your timing, know the crowd. But real talent prevails.”
The podcast game is still as relevant as ever, and that’s Detrone’s next step in the media landscape.
“Coming with my own show. The Hostyle Takeover. I’m coming for your show, for every podcast. We got a great cast. Dr. Chocolate Thunder, Bami Bang, Jay, DJ Logic, all these people together. Current events, political views, religion, police brutality, interviews with entertainers, many different things. You don’t have too many African American podcasts out there discussing the issues. You have people like Joe Rogan, great guy. He has his thing. We’ll have ours. Looking at a mid-May launch. Plus, I got my blog about to go up. That will have hip-hop and comedy. Doing an interview with Tina Graham. She was the talent coordinator for Def Jam, one of the hardest working people in the business. We’ll do sports, we’ll review comedy clubs, their food. All of it.”
Detrone’s steadfast individualism and work ethic was no doubt influenced by his time spent training in the martial arts.
“I started training under Master Cho. About 13 or 14. Then around 17 I spent a year training under Master Marvin, and then I went off to college. Where it’s tough to train unless you have someone else there. Doing the same stuff. And mind you this is before the UFC. But anyway, trained a little bit with weapons during that time. Really doesn’t do it for me. But I did it, just to do something. When I came back, started training at a new school under Oren Howell. Working with the kids too. I taught Karate there and in return a guy named Eddie Acevedo started training me in BJJ. Also Russian Sambo. And Eddie is just nasty on the mat. Eugene Perez. Another submission specialist was there. He was the VP of Grappler’s Quest. And I’ll still work those tournaments in Jersey. But yeah. I’ve competed too. One big tournament I did was NAGA. I trained for two months for that. Dropped 40lbs in two months. The night before that tournament, I got knocked out. Wrestling some dude that weighed like 300lbs. Knocked my head against the mat. Stars. I tapped him, but I was out on my feet. Got up, looked around. Saw the other guys sparring, then all of a sudden I heard a boom. Next thing I know, there’s a towel being waved over me. Didn’t know where I was. Nothing. So, I take it easy for the rest of the night. Wait until everyone leaves, with just a few of my guys left in the gym, and they’re telling me that I have a concussion. I’m not remembering where my people live, what I was doing. I had no idea I was knocked out. I went to weigh in the next morning, didn’t tell the doctors nothing. Went in to that tournament, and took second place. After being knocked out the night before. That was two years ago. I still train and spar, but I think my competition days are done. Cutting weight, my knees in buckets of ice, I think I’m done.”
His passion for combat sports in general still remains.
“I continue to follow the sport. You know what though? I don’t like Jon Jones, but for some reason, I’m looking forward to his future. I don’t like Mayweather, I don’t like big mouths, like Broner. Don’t like any of them. I also don’t like seeing any of the old guys come back. Like Ortiz, and Shamrock. Shamrock, let it go. He made the sport what it is. Love watching the fights. Love Mighty Mouse. Conor McGregor? Can’t stand him. But I was happy when he got his ass whooped. Do I want to a second fight with Diaz? Yes. And right now, I’m actually liking Bellator. Dana White is just fucking everything up. He’s going to have to reinvent the UFC, like WWE had to do when WCW was around. Lotta people jumping ship for Bellator. Dana is a great salesman, I’ll give him that. But he’s shitting on everyone at the same time. I know what it takes to get there. I’ve been in the game. Fighters sacrifice so much. Often times, they turn to drugs and alcohol, just to deal. I respect the fighters. Dan White? I do not respect at all.”
And in life?
“I’ll never be the one to throw the first punch. I need to get hit first. To wake me up. Feel alive.”