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Hannibal Buress could rescue Spotify’s boring new 'radio' series

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In 2013, I saw Chance the Rapper perform at the New York City venue SOB’s. There was only one opening act that night: Hannibal Buress. Buress is a comedian (probably best known for his role on Broad City), which seemed like an odd choice for a rap show opener, but his set ended up working really well. Opening acts are rarely much more than a buffer until the headliner arrives; something to make sure the people who show up early aren’t just staring at an empty stage. But Buress’ set was engaging, because it didn’t matter if you had never heard of him before. Jokes are not like songs: they’re better when you don’t recognize them. Plus, it turns out laughter is a pretty good set-up for music.

Laughter is a pretty good set-up for music

This week, Hannibal Buress starting doing something else: hosting a "radio" show on Spotify. It’s part of Spotify’s In Residence series, a feature where people (usually musicians) put together playlists interspersed with their own commentary. Buress will host a total of six episodes, the first of which premiered on Wednesday. As a concept, the show reminded me of the night I saw Buress opening for Chance.

For the most part, I don’t think people have been paying much attention to In Residence. Most of the musicians who have hosted episodes so far aren’t very well known. (One artist, Rob tha Bank, played a song by someone named Elf Kid. and it seemed like an inside joke about bad names so I stopped listening.) But Buress is the series’ first comedian, and, again, he ended up being an unusually good choice.

His playlist was a pretty chill collection of mostly ‘90s hip-hop artists like Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and Busta Rhymes, with a few more recent tracks from the likes of Eminem and Lupe Fiasco tossed in. The show’s appeal is really that of any pre-made playlist: you don’t have to think about what to play next. The added bonus is that, once a song ends, you get to listen to a comedian tell jokes. After a while I forgot what I was listening to, but Buress’ interludes always grabbed my attention after Danny Brown’s manic verses and T.I.’s party anthems. "It might be annoying to some of you," Buress said of the show at one point. "I don’t care. There’s so much other shit on the internet you could be listening to."

I kind of forgot what I was listening to

And he’s right — there is so much other shit on the internet I could’ve listened to. And In Residence isn’t really a good enough concept on its own to make me want to return to the feature again. But Buress’ first episode was enjoyable enough to listen to (and it’s much more fun to listen to a comedian talk about music than it is to listen to a musician talk about music). The show could be a sign that In Residence is still finding its stride, and the reason I’m probably going to keep listening. At least for one more episode.