Local Wire

Reggie Watts @ Crescent Ballroom

Don't worry if you have trouble categorizing what exactly Brooklyn-based artist Reggie Watts does. Is it performance art? Music? Comedy? It's mostly best to just listen. "I can exist in both worlds — comedy and music," Watts says over the phone. "It's just something natural. I like to travel between the two worlds." Take his mainstream hip-hop spoof "Fuck Shit Stack." It's hilarious, sure, and it genuinely grooves, but it's loaded with a kind of incisive, subversive commentary on the state of gender relations in America. "I like women," he raps over an a cappella vocal and beatbox loop. "I like the concept of a woman. I like to take that concept and reduce it to an object. I like to take that object and put it in my videos." Watts estimates his shows are "95 percent improvised," but like his former band Maktub, he draws from a deep well of hip-hop, soul, R&B, and rock influences, using those basic elements to craft a foundation for farther-out lyrical exploration. "That's kind of the whole idea of improvisation — sometimes you end up discovering this and that. That's one of the rewards of it." Fans who caught Watts opening for Conan O'Brien when the latter brought his "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" know what to expect, but first-timers shouldn't be alarmed that the show might skew more toward either side of what Watts does: "The more you do something, the more your fans understand the parameters. Earlier on, people would say things [about expecting more comedy or music]. Now I don't really worry about it. I just do my shit."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.