Friday, April 30, 2010

{alltv} Cleveland Show Creator: Writing Raps for Kanye Was Like Painting for Picasso

Could the writers of The Cleveland Show have a future creating rhymes for Kanye West?

"It's like your painting something to show Picasso," Cleveland Show co-creator and executive producer Mike Henry tells of writing a rap for West, who voices a character in Sunday's episode. "He read it, and he was laughing. We had a room of five or six guys that wrote the rap, and Kanye joked we should write on his next album."

West, the Grammy-winning rapper who is almost as well known for his antics as his music, voices Kenny West, a small-time rapper and the coolest kid in Stoolbend. When Cleveland Jr. falls for Kenny's girlfriend (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), they stage a rap-off to win the girl's heart.

Henry says getting West on board was a snap. "I was actually in the recording booth one day about to start recording Cleveland, and Kanye came in out of nowhere and pushed me aside and said he had his own character," Henry jokes, referencing West's gaffe with Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards last year.

Instead, Henry says working with West, who took great interest in how the show's animation came together, was a pleasure. His character will even appear again in Season 2 next fall.

"You see him out there doing these crazy things from time to time, but he could not have been a cooler, nicer guy," Henry says. "Kanye is definitely up for making fun of his high jinks — not necessarily this [episode], but certainly in the fall."

West's episode kicks off The Cleveland Show's sweeps episodes, which feature an ill-timed Black History Month episode, Cleveland losing lots of money on a riverboat casino and the return of Cleveland's parents, Cookie and Freight Train, who want to remarry.

The finale features a quick cameo from Family Guy's Peter and Quagmire, but Henry says he has tried to avoid crossing over between the shows too much. Rather, he feels his show is just finding its stride and its own voice.

"When we set out with this new show, we wanted it to be different from Family Guy," Henry says. "We didn't want it to be in your face — there are no rape jokes, no abortion jokes. It's more of a family-oriented show. It's really found its legs, and .... it's almost something you can watch with your kids."

The Kanye West episode of The Cleveland Show airs Sunday at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.

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