'Whole Foods Parking Lot:' Q&A with the Supermarket Rapper

4:56 PM PST 06/21/2011 by Shirley Halperin
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"You know the deal with the little shopping carts they got..."

"It's gettin' real in the Whole Foods parking lot..." THR tracked down L.A. music composer Dave Wittman whose rap parody recently went viral.

The Hollywood Reporter: What is your musical background? Are or were you an aspiring musician?

Dave Wittman: I’ve been having fun with music since I was a little kid. I grew up DJing and playing drums in Berkeley and was heavily influenced by hip-hop and jazz in the mid 90s like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, DJ Premier, Gang Starr. But I was making beats for years. This is the first thing I’ve done, inspiration-wise, that’s struck a chord, but frankly, I haven’t been trying to make a record career happen. I’ve been doing film scoring, and working to picture mostly.

THR: What was the inspiration for Whole Foods parking lot?

Wittman: Real life. Or what my manicured, somewhat-foofy West LA life is like. It’s funny where inspiration can come from. I was really annoyed at some guy who cut me off in his Prius, and in getting all heated from some gangster-ish perspective in my mind, I was, like, “Are you kidding, dude? Look at yourself. You’re on the West Side of Los Angeles. Take it easy.” The joke came from there, from mocking these things that people don’t necessarily connect with each other: like yoga culture and the Kombucha tea and fancy things that cost so much. The reality is everyone has balance in their life: days that are good and days that are tough. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself when your tough days involve picking up expensive organic chicken.  

THR: You shot the video guerilla style, were you ejected from either Whole Foods? 

Wittman: We got kicked out of the one in Venice on Lincoln and Rose. They were really polite and cool but we were sort of dejected. The next day we tried to get some interiors and strapped the camera to a shopping cart. They kicked us out again, but we were able to get one verse recorded. Then we went up to Montana [in Santa Monica] and they’re more mellow. One guy was even so cool as to be on camera and say, “We’re out of cheese.”

THR: How much did you spend on the video?

Wittman: I bought the camera, a Canon 5D [$3,000 with lens], instead of renting it. I thought we can make a collective where, if you have an idea, you can do it. We’re all people that work in professional capacities surrounding entertainment, we’ve done some films, let’s do more stuff together, empower ourselves to do good creative work. So getting the camera was a big deal. That changed it from being just a song, though I did put the MP3 on SoundCloud a good month and a half ago, and people really liked it, but the video was what got attention and spread. It says something about the instant gratification generation of today.

THR: Has anyone reached out to you about making a record or representing you?

Wittman: I didn’t do the song [thinking], “OK, let’s get a hit,” and I didn’t think about making a record. If someone is interested and it’s a natural evolution that’s in line with who I am and what I want to do musically, then great! But I’m happy when I hear “thanks for the laugh,” or when someone tells me, as one girl did recently, “I’m really inspired to do more than push through for a paycheck. I’m inspired to go live an exciting life, and do something meaningful, and thank you for that sense of inspiration.” I really couldn’t have expected something that cool. It blows me away. It’s really touching.

THR: But with 1.5 million Youtube views and iTunes sales, you’re bound to make some money down the line...

Wittman: I’m no stranger to the commercial side of things, and I do need to make money. I’m paying for my wedding coming up in November and that stuff’s real. I know what it’s like to work hard and to get things done for a paycheck and for art and the line you have to walk between those things sometimes. But I have a job and the company that I work for, Elias Arts, they’re good enough to let me pursue my creative endeavors as I continue to hold it down.

THR: Never thought this question would come up in an interview, but what is your favorite produce?

Wittman: I’m really into f---ing quinoa right now. My fiancé does it with this chicken stock and it’s got this good flavor. A little chicken on the grill, some kale salad with lemon, and the quinoa just brings it together. It’s filling, but it doesn’t have the weight of a starchy thing. I love it. I also like hamburgers and burritos.

THR: So what do you hope happens next?

Wittman: I don’t exactly know. People talk about viral success, and this is a cheesy analogy, but I think trying to go viral is like trying to fall in love. If you go out there looking to execute it, it probably won’t work. Whereas if you stay true to yourself, honest and you listen to your intuition, you may come across something that connects. That irony is what this song is about, so trying to turn it into something that’s outside the flow of my life is sort of antithetical. I just hope it increases my ability to work on music I like. If for some reason, people think I’m funny and want to laugh, that’s terrific. I just hope it pushes things forward for everybody in a positive way.

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