After 19 years off the air, hip-hop heralds Adrian "Stretch" Bartos and Robert "Bobbito" Garcia reunite on NPR for their new podcast, What's Good with Stretch and Bobbito. NPR Extra had the chance to sit down with Bobbito in person, and Stretch by phone, to talk about their vision for the new show, as well as their history as co-hosts, filmmakers, DJs, and best friends. The duo reminisced about being roommates with opposite living habits, jokingly sang to each other over the phone, and talked about highlights from their careers together.
Stretch and Bobbito's incredible dynamic undoubtedly shines in their new show, where they converse with iconic cultural and musical figures and engage listeners with new music. In the first episode out today, the two friends sit down with comedian Dave Chappelle, who talks about his own work ethic and historic residency at Radio City Music Hall.
First off, let's introduce people to you guys, if they don't know you already. How did you get your nicknames, "Stretch" and "Bobbito"?
Stretch: Mine is a terribly unpoetic and unimaginative name. After my growth spurt, some friends started calling me "Stretch." I added Armstrong to it because at the time, I was an aspiring DJ who loved hip-hop. There was a tradition in hip-hop for naming yourself—particularly among DJs—after superheroes and comic book characters. Plus, it was a great radio name. I was actually on the radio with Bob without a name that I liked for some time. At one point I was DJ Adrian B, and then I had another name that made fun of my skinniness, which I didn't like either. Finally, I came upon Stretch Armstrong, which sounded masculine and powerful, so I went with it.
Bobbito: I was called "Papito" with a "p" by my father, as a term of endearment in a Latin family. But none of my friends spoke Spanish. And since my nickname was Bobby, all my friends thought my father was calling me "Bobbito" with a "b." So "Bobbito" just became the final nickname.
What is your ultimate vision for this podcast?
Stretch: Even though the show is interview-based, and in that way very different from what we did on the radio show in the '90s, I think that there is still the same desire to discover and unearth things. In this case, the focus is on the individuals that we're interviewing and their personal narratives. We're hoping we can elicit stories and insights from our guests, stories that might not be available elsewhere in other print or radio interviews. This is essentially what we did in the '90s, where we tried to find music that no one could hear anywhere else, and get performances from artists who couldn't be heard elsewhere and couldn't be duplicated.
Bobbito: Ultimately, we want these narratives to affect the audience in a positive way. It's not just about getting the story that no one else got. We want to find the narratives that our audience will appreciate, narratives where the audience will be uplifted, moved, and challenged. I think the long term vision is to be doing this not just for the next two years but to have a permanent spot in the NPR space, both online with the podcast and eventually with radio. That's the long term vision. And it's all an experiment. It took us two years to plan the show. We're hoping that once people see that we as a pair can be engaging, provocative, and funny, that our show will be a formula that NPR will find striking.
You both have had a long history together working together. Before this new podcast with NPR, you both worked together on your radio show from 1990 to 1998 that catapulted the successful careers of so many hip-hop artists. You also worked on a documentary about the influence of your show, and have worked as DJs ever since. Looking back, what has been one of your favorite interviews?
Bobbito: That is really difficult to answer. A stand out interview from my career was talking to Stevie Wonder for one of the episodes for the What's Good podcast. After having met him briefly at events, we had the chance to sit and talk to the music legend for not just fifteen minutes, but for an hour and a half. Stevie Wonder was playing piano during our interview and responding to questions and creating original compositions on the spot. That was just a view that I think most people couldn't even fathom to experience in their lifetime. Especially me. I'm a Stevie Wonder fan to the fullest.
Stretch: I almost can't believe the Stevie Wonder interview happened. Being involved in that, sitting in the studio with Bob and being aware of what Stevie Wonder means to him, and to be right next to Bob while he's interacting with Stevie Wonder in that way, was just super cool to see. I was happy for the show, and for myself, but extra happy for Bob.
What are you most excited for people to hear about in the show?
Stretch: We're looking forward to getting a new audience of people who will come to us via NPR in addition to the fans from our history. We also hope that our fans from the '90s and beyond are not put off from the fact that the podcast is not going to be a hip-hop mix show. We want them to be open minded—just like they were in the '90s to the various music we were playing then. The podcast is definitely a break from what we're known for.
Bobbito: I couldn't have said it better than Stretch.