Okayplayer: The Rebirth of Hannibal Buress

For Okayplayer, I wrote a feature story on Hannibal Buress and his rebirth, from comedian to rapper. As a rapper he goes by the stage name Eshu Tune, and when he wears red he’s in Go Mode.

Check out an excerpt from the story and read the full feature here. Featured image of Eshu Tune aka Hannibal Buress by Skylar Watkins.

“Alright, so what’s the secret here?” I asked, standing before lane 22 at Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, holding an orange, 10-pound ball.

Fielding my question and standing at the ready in lane 21 is a comedian, thespian, and alumni of the Pro Bowler Association’s 2021 Celebrity Invitational — Hannibal Buress — who’s holding a 14-pound purple ball in his hands. We’re killing time before Adult Swim Festival 2022 where, in a few hours, Hannibal will be performing the first full-length rap set of his career to a crowd of about 300 on a stage that’s just several dozen feet behind us. We first met almost 10 years ago, which puts me in the unique position of having observed the progression of a big chunk of Hannibal’s career — from 15-minute sets opening for an opener of an opener of an opener for a headliner to headlining himself and building a new career as a rapper.

As a rapper, he goes by Eshu Tune, a name inspired by Nigerian mythology, specifically the Yoruba deity Eshu, a benevolent spirit also known to be a trickster, who serves as a messenger between Heaven and Earth. He’ll be backed by hometown funk and soul favorites Snacktime, an eight-piece band complete with horns, keys and even a tuba.

“Think of it like a handshake,” he said. “When you release, extend your throwing hand all the way up, like almost cartoonishly high. And get as close to the foul line as you can.”

The advice that’s understood but goes unspoken is to aim for the 1-3 pocket, the space between the front pin and the pin that sits just behind it and to the right. (If you’re a lefty you want to aim for the 1-2 pocket.)

That unspoken advice is also the hook of a single from his debut rap album Eshu Tune, which was released back in April. The album showcases his ability to make funny songs that are actually good, as is the case with the especially silly cut “CMDGT” where, in its extended outro, Hannibal assumes the role of a mad scientist holding a recording studio hostage, his demands a laundry list of samples he needs in the song. But it also shows how he can make serious songs too, with tracks like “Paradox,” “Back In The City,” and “Donde Esta” serving as some of the album’s standout cuts. While he may still have growing to do as a songwriter and performer — the night before the show he freestyled in a shoe store with the following fitting line, “My older songs sound timid, I’m getting them shits recut” — there’s a resolute confidence he brings to the album.

“People get nervous about nervous muthafuckas,” he said.“They can feel it. But if you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what’s being said.”

As he lines up his shot, I watch and study his form. There’s no dramatic spin on his roll; his fingers are committed to the sockets in his purple sphere, while his red Adidas NMDs hit the floor and stop just before the foul line. He releases the bowling ball as his right hand goes skyward and he hits the 1-3 pocket — strike.

Read the full feature here.