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Society gives an inordinate amount of lip service when it comes to “trying new things.” The idea of picking up a new hobby sounds great to everyone around you. There’s full-throated support for when your friend wants to make focaccia bread, or when they get into crocheting to the point where they’re producing scarves and beer koozies at an alarming rate. Even when your friend says they want to start a podcast, that idea is met with a begrudging amount of encouragement. But in Hannibal Buress’ case, he’s noticed that his recent foray into music is sometimes met with a more measured reaction.
“It’s this weird thing with music where people question it more than jumping into other aspects of entertainment, you know what I mean?” said Buress. “I don’t know, it’s not a real concern of mine…I think a lot of times people are a little bit skeptical, and then the sentiment has been that they leave a little surprised that I’m decent, I guess.”
Maybe it’s because people aren’t used to change when it comes from somebody who’s been a constant pillar in the entertainment world since 2002. Buress’ comedy career has spanned the better part of two decades, proving that his dry humor and even drier delivery land with precise impact across various mediums. Whether it’s his five critically acclaimed comedy specials, the recurring roles on Broad City and The Eric Andre Show, or a seemingly endless barrage of movie and animated voice appearances, you’ve come to expect what a Hannibal Buress moment on your screen feels like and sounds like. Wry, and often monotone, observations that almost always present as a foil to his scene partners, or cut against the grain of the presiding logic of a topic, turning him into a ubiquitous presence in every comedic medium.
Now, Buress is now committed to carving out a new lane for himself through the moniker Eshu Tune, named after a Yoruba trickster god, a benevolent spirit that serves as the messenger between heaven and earth. Eshu Tune is Buress’ rapping stage name, a rebirth that represents a full dedication to a new form of artistry. He’s been making music and rapping for the entirety of his career, even before he started doing comedy more than 20 years ago, but “Gibberish Rap” and feature verses like on Open Mike Eagle’s “Doug Stamper” registered as random, one-off junctures. But a dedicated veer towards making music has always been in the Chicago native’s mind.
“I’ve always dabbled in music,” said Buress. “We just talked about putting out a project for a while, [since] probably more than a decade ago. It was more like…I had time to really focus on it and work on it.”
He released a self-titled album in April 2022, attempting to marry all his interests and passions into one harmonious project. The songs were brief, rarely eclipsing two and a half minutes for the most part, but Buress’ capability is fully on display: he nimbly spits about the ins and outs of bowling on “1-3 pocket,” punches in between a random grab bag of sample tags on “CMDGT,” and even tried to get sentimental about the realities of becoming a new dad on the Eryn Allen Kane-assisted “Kept About 3.”
Eshu Tune continues to introduce himself to the public at a methodical pace. At his comedy shows–which are becoming less and less prevalent–Buress will be on double duty, doing about an hour of comedy before coming back out to perform as Eshu Tune as well. For Buress, it provides a change of pace, allowing him to flex a different set of creative muscles, breathing life into performing for the first time in a while.
Since his debut project, he’s released remixes and singles (a “Veneers” remix with Danny Brown and Paul Wall and the UK rap-styled “Lamp Me”), sharpened his production abilities (and committed himself to learn new instruments), all while trying to become more comfortable on stage. His voice crawls over the beats, as his drawl bores into the listener’s ears with each bar. His absurdist raps, tinged with randomness as if they’re born from his stream of consciousness, make his music feel as if he’s the tamest member of the Bruiser Brigade (the production registers as far more straight-laced than Danny Brown’s charges).
For him, Eshu Tune isn’t about proving anything to doubters or naysayers–it’s an intrinsic drive to expand upon a passion he’s held for more than 20 years. I talked to Buress about the past year, what it’s felt like to share stages and tracks with rap legends, the difference between how rap and comedy make him feel, and our mutual love of bowling.