The Story Behind the Funniest 'Star Wars' Rap Parody of All Time
From the Flash-animated "Star Wars Gangsta Rap" of the early 2000s to mash-up projects like Life After Death Star, which combined John Williams' score with Notorious B.I.G. lyrics, there's a curious history of hip-hop-inspired Star Wars parody records. But with the announcement that Atlanta star Donald Glover, who also releases music under the name Childish Gambino, would play the effortlessly cool, cape-wearing scoundrel Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it felt like the franchise was finally blasting its way into the 21st century. Would this Ron Howard directed blockbuster be the first Star Wars movie to feature a rap song recorded by one of its stars?
On February 5, the day after the film's first official trailer debuted, television writer and comedian Demi Adejuyigbe made that dream a reality by releasing "L-A-N-D-O: A Star Wars Story," a brilliant parody of early Gambino records and a clever tribute to Han's roguish best friend. With lines like "I’ll get up in your girl as if she was a tauntaun" and "Cape got me lookin' like a black pope -- Scandal," the song quickly went viral.
Adejuyigbe, who flies under the alias @electrolemon on Twitter, has worked on shows like NBC's The Good Place and co-hosts the podcast Punch Up the Jam, where he routinely produces spot-on parodies of pop classics. Before the Lando song blew up online, the 25-year-old writer's rapping skills were put to use making hilarious (and clearly fake) after-credits songs in the voice of Will Smith for movies like Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, and Moonlight. (He also pulled off a prank involving DVDs of the Adam Sandler movie Click that you might remember.) We spoke with Adejuyigbe to find out exactly what goes into crafting the perfect Star Wars parody, how Glover's voice was easier to mimic than Smith's, and why some sci-fi fans should probably chill a little bit.
Thrillist: I'm curious about when the concept for the song first came to you. Was it when the trailer debuted or did you have the idea in the back of your head ever since it was announced Donald Glover was playing Lando?
Adejuyigbe: I had done an Aladdin video in July of the previous year and at that point someone tweeted at me saying that I should do a Donald Glover one for Star Wars or Lion King. At first I was like, "Oh, I don't know. Maybe." But I came up with one line and I wrote it down and I was like, "Yeah, that's fun but I don't know about doing all of this." Then I started coming up with more lines and more lines, and was like, "OK, maybe I will." Slowly, I started to think of lines here and there, and I figured if I had enough to make a whole song I'd do it. Then about a month later I was like, "Oh, yeah, this could be a full song." So I started writing it out.
At some point in the new year, there were rumors that the trailer was dropping at some point in January, so I went ahead and started making the video. I think people essentially confirmed that it was going to be coming during the Super Bowl, so I was like, "All right, I'll have it in time for the Super Bowl."
Do you remember what the first line was that made you think you could do it?
Adejuyigbe: I don't. I could probably figure it out if I took a look at the lyrics. I want to say it's "Spent a thousand stayin’ fly -- Millennium Falcon."
The song is full of so many Star Wars references from Lobot to tauntauns to Blue Harvest. Did you have a list of things that you knew you wanted to hit?
Adejuyigbe: No. Funny enough, I was not a huge fan of Star Wars before seeing The Last Jedi, so I was kinda like, "I'm just going to keep it to whatever I know about Star Wars." I didn't look up anything. I did go back and re-watch Empire Strikes Back, just to get a better understanding of who Lando was in that movie because it's his biggest feature in the series thus far. From that point on, I was like, "OK, anything I can glean from this movie is what I'll use for my knowledge."
Were there any Star Wars words that were particularly tough to write good rhymes for?
Adejuyigbe: I don't think so. The hardest parts were the ones that weren't Star Wars related. The one about him being a "card player, gambler, scoundrel" was sorta shoved in because I came up with the "Let a Solo go like a blues song" line and wanted to rhyme it with something but couldn't think of anything Star Wars related. So I just grabbed a quote from Empire Strikes Back and added a little ad-lib on the end of it.
I know you said you were working on the video for the song before the trailer came out. Can you describe the work that went into putting it together?
Adejuyigbe: For ages I have wanted to do a video typography thing. When I first moved to LA, that was something I was trying to do while getting a foothold in writing. I made a music video for a St. Vincent song that was all just motion graphics of the lyrics and I never released it because I never finished it, but I was like, "Oh, I really want to do this again." It was such a fun thing and combined a bunch of different things that I loved to do and would love to do for a music video someday. When [the Lando] idea came along, I knew I couldn't put it in the same format that I'd done all my other videos because it wasn't "out" as a movie yet. But I still wanted to do it.
So I was like, "I'll just pretend this is a music video thing that Donald Glover was going to release." Then I was rolling along with it and I knew what I wanted to do in terms of it being an After Effects motion graphics thing. I just jumped into it and started basic but every time I had an idea for a new twist to it I was like, "Great, I'm going to ditch the style it's going in currently and bring in a new typographical element or a new size formatting." I knew it had to be kinetic and changing. I started basic and added flourishes when I felt like it was getting too stale.
It took about three days in After Effects. I was just watching Parks and Recreation in the background and going to town on After Effects, trying to do things while also getting clips from Empire Strikes Back. I just clipped whatever footage I could of Lando. I also found a video on YouTube that helped where someone compiled every Lando Calrissian line from Empire and Return of the Jedi, so I just looked to that for reference. It was like, "OK, these are here, if I know what footage I want for a specific line I can grab it that way."
Even though it's not one of the after-credits songs, you still did the thing where you filmed it off your TV. Did you always know you were going to present it that way?
Adejuyigbe: I kinda knew I was going to do the TV thing because I think that's critical to the joke of it for me. I want people to start looking at it thinking "this could be real," and then very slowly over the course of it realize, "No, this is not at all real."
[The sketch group] Good Neighbor had this video called the Best Kid Awards and it was basically a play on the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards where they have an intro with all these pictures of kids coming up as if it's a Kids' Choice Awards. But then every so often it's like Royce da 5'9" or something. It's so funny, and it's that same type of format where they put the work into making the video but film it externally because the joke is that it's just something that you're catching on TV.
Obviously, you've done a lot of these Will Smith raps, but what was different about trying to do a song as Childish Gambino? What parts of his style were you looking to replicate?
Adejuyigbe: I think I just realized that this was easier to replicate than Will Smith because I think my voice is a lot closer to his -- or I can make it a lot closer to his than I can to Will Smith. With Will Smith I was just mimicking the affectations and ad-libs he does for songs, but the voice was not spot-on. But with Donald Glover, I feel like I'm very close to being able to mimic that 2011 Freaks and Geeks EP era style of his music, so I just thought that would be fun and maybe easier to trick people with. It was another thing where I realized there was a rapper whose voice I could imitate who was also about to be in a bit movie, so I was like, "OK, that's pretty key to what I've been doing with these Will Smith songs, so maybe this one will work a lot easier."
Yeah, you're also walking an interesting line between poking fun at that old Childish Gambino material and making your Lando jokes. Was there anything you wrote that was just too ridiculous to put in the song?
Adejuyigbe: I essentially started writing these in a Word Doc, but I think that document is deleted now. I think every joke I wrote made it in. The Les Mis line where I'm like "I'm in a castle on a Cloud City, I don’t know what les mis" was one of the first ones I wrote too. I thought that was such a stretch that I was like, "If I can figure out how to pull this line off, then I have to do this song." So that was another big one for me.
Donald Glover probably spends a decent amount of time online. Do you think he's seen the video?
Adejuyigbe: I haven't heard anything. I once met someone who worked with him who said, "Well, now I have to show him the video," but I don't know if he has seen it or not. It would be cool to learn that he has but I also wouldn't be surprised if he was like, "Yeah, I don't like this." Because on some level it's clearly a tribute to him and I'm clearly a fan of his work, but it also quickly becomes a thing where it's like, "Is this criticizing him? Am I making fun of him?" Yes, I am, but I also very much love him, so it comes from a good place. But I have no idea if he's seen it and wouldn't be surprised either way.
Of the Will Smith raps, do you have a favorite one?
Adejuyigbe: I really liked the Aladdin one that I did. When I first did the Arrival one I was like, "This is really fun to do," and the rhyme scheme in that one is really good. But with the Aladdin one I thought I improved upon it. Also, the Get Out one I really liked because that's the one that was so clearly a mimic of one specific song and I don't know if a lot of people got that it was directly a parody of "Nightmare on My Street." I know a lot of people pointed that out. After I did the Childish Gambino one, and I was mimicking his inflections and the voice of Donald Glover, I did another Will Smith one and I was like "I want to mimic the inflections of Will Smith." So I was trying to be more careful about parodying that part of it -- and I think I nailed it with the "Nightmare on My Street" voice.
Have you started any parodies that you haven't finished or recorded ones that you decided not to put online?
Adejuyigbe: I pretty much released every one just because they don't take super-long, so if I get to a point where I feel stuck on one I'll abandon it or I'll just save it until I figure out more lines later. Like, I have exactly one line for a Lion King one, but I decided to do the Star Wars one first and I don't know if I'll do the Lion King one. I might not just because it feels like double-dipping in the same pool.
But also, I'll figure out if I want to do it. I'm afraid that if I start saying, "Oh, this one was inspired by this tweet," then a bunch of people will be like, "You should do this one next." And I really don't want that. The whole reason I don't do these for YouTube or something where there's money involved regularly is I can do these on my own schedule and I don't want to do them by a Patreon where it's like, "Once a month, I've gotta do this!"
Do you find it exhausting to have to be funny on Twitter all the time? Or is it exhausting as it sometimes looks?
Adejuyigbe: I didn't realize it looked exhausting. It's not that exhausting because I don't feel like there's an obligation to do it. I don't feel like I have to keep up a schedule. I just do it when I get an idea or something. So there will be times when I'm just not on Twitter at all until I have a joke, then I throw it out, and immediately close my phone and don't read mentions because that's when it gets exhausting. The way I treat Twitter, which is as a place for me to throw things up and then immediately go away, makes it very easy to not get overwhelmed or exhausted by things. So, it doesn't feel exhausting and I don't feel like there's an obligation for me to be doing things on a regular schedule and everything I do video-wise and regular Tweet-wise is something I do out of me having an idea and not just, "Oh, I have to keep up with doing this."
I guess I was thinking about having to interact with angry Ready Player One fans or angry Star Wars fans. Obviously, it's the internet, so people want to argue.
Adejuyigbe: Yeah, the engagement stuff does get very exhausting, because I think a lot times, it's people who don't understand what I'm doing who insist on telling me their opinions on something and I'm always just like, "I don't care." You can like whatever you like or don't like whatever you don't like, but when you go to a point where you feel like you're being attacked because other people don't feel the same way as you do or feel like you have to insist that everyone doesn't like The Last Jedi because you don't like The Last Jedi, that's when I'm like, "You can go fuck yourself. Just go away."
It's so infuriating because I do feel like there's a sense of entitlement, particularly to things in geekdom lately where it's like, "No, there's an objective take on how this is supposed to be seen and if you don't feel this then you're brainwashed or you're a Disney shill." It's like, just fucking relax. Nothing is set in stone. No one is trying to make you feel a certain way. Just let people like and not like what things they do or don't like. And, let people shit on things when they don't like them without feeling like it's an attack on your personal taste.
Are there any older songs that you did, either on YouTube or on your BandCamp, that you wish more people would check out? Like the hidden gems of your back catalog.
Adejuyigbe: The first song things I did were I wanna say three years ago. I wrote a song for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was a plot description of that, and I think that might be lost to time now because I cannot find it. It was from around 2014 I wanna say. That is probably not a recommendation because you can't find it.
The one I did after that was The Revenant: The Musical and that was for the 2015 Oscars where I just wrote out a song that was Leonardo DiCaprio's attempt to win an Oscar in song form because he wasn't winning one as an actor. So it was just the plot of The Revenant but sung out and at the end, it was a list of Leonardo DiCaprio movies in a rhyming scheme and that one is on my BandCamp. It's just called The Revenant: The Musical. That was a fun thing to write. I feel like with the songs, the lyrics are the easiest part to write. For that one, I just wrote it in a night and I was like, "I can do this every year!" I just kept getting more and more complex with them.