If there is any question left in anyone’s mind as to whether or not Go the Fuck to Sleep author Adam Mansbach is, in fact, the world’s greatest dad, the deceptively proud papa and devout hip-hopper is back with the follow-up to his 2011 faux children’s book, lovingly titled You Have to Fucking Eat. We chatted with Mansbach about — what else? — food and fatherhood before subjecting him to the character-illuminating exercise that is Playboy’s Lucky 7.
Was it difficult following up Go the Fuck to Sleep?
After the first book, there were a lot of people pitching me stupid ideas for sequels. I do these radio tours where they put you in a room with a bottle of water, and a different radio show host calls you every ten minutes. These cats, they’re all named Rick or Steve. They all have a sidekick named Booger or Crankshaft or some shit. They all do that morning show banter. The interviews would always wrap up with “Hey, we got a couple ideas for the sequel!” Then they’d pitch me, like, Put On Your Fuckin’ Shoes! And I’d be like, “Nah. I can’t really get 14 stanzas out of that.”
How old is your daughter?
That’s a weird question for Playboy to be asking me. But my daughter is a six-and-a-half.
How’d you settle on eating as a theme?
Eating seemed like the other universal concern and parental frustration. For a while, I didn’t want to do a sequel. But watching my kid and watching other people’s kids who are that age, getting them to eat is a big thing. Food is one of the things we enjoy most as adults. Eating is something we plan our days around half the time. So the notion of not being able to get a kid to agree with the concept of putting good stuff in her body is just one of those things that makes you feel like a failure as a parent.
There’s a lot of elements to the food battle, as well. There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It happens in restaurants. And then, even if your kid is eating, there’s a fear that the shit that you’re giving them to eat is going to kill them because everything is toxic now. On one hand, you won the battle and your kid ate a salmon filet. On the other hand, you just gave them X amount of mercury and radiation poison and shit.
Were you a picky eater as a kid?
I was, by all accounts, a pretty good eater as a kid. I pretty much ate whatever was in front of me — to a fault possibly. Most of the stories about me as a kid were about me eating to excess and passing out somewhere between the living room and the front yard.
You’ve seem like a sterling example of strapping manhood.
I get that a lot. By the time I was five, I was pretty brolic. I was a chubby two-year-old. I think fat babies are a good look. You want babies to be fat. There’s nothing worse than a skinny baby. It’s crazy. Having a daughter, I’m pretty aware of these body image issues and at what a young age they can develop. It’s just one of the many terrifying things about having a daughter.
How would you appraise yourself as a dad?
I’m pretty much the best dad ever. I say that on the basis of comparing my daughter to other six-year-olds. A lot of these six-year-olds can’t even recognize basic breakbeats. You play them “Apache” and they have no idea what it is. Or, you play them Nas’ “Made You Look” and they don’t even know that it’s an “Apache” loop. They’re all fucked up in the game. My daughter is super-fresh. It’s funny. People probably imagine that I hate parenthood and children because I keep writing obscene fake children’s books, but they’re actually very loving beneath the surface.
I guess you have to feel that way about a kid. If you hate them, that’s problematic, right?
I dunno. A lot of the protocols on parenting are really fuzzy to me. I’ll go to other people’s houses with my daughter, for example, and they’ll pay me all sorts of compliments about her. Then I just kind of sit there because I don’t really feel that way about their kids. I don’t really know the rules; do I have to reciprocate? “Yeah, I agree with you. My kid is fresh. Your kid is, like, mediocre.”
So, for you, the typical playdate consists of you bringing your daughter to someone’s house to be praised followed by a palpable, awkward silence.
Yeah. And I expect to be given drinks. I should add that I don’t get invited on all that many playdates.
Samuel L. Jackson was the voice of the official audio book of Go the Fuck to Sleep. Who’d you get to read You Have to Fucking Eat?
PLAYBOY LUCKY 7 QUESTIONS
What was your first encounter with Playboy magazine?
There was this candy store in my neighborhood called “Bob’s” and Bob was this crotchety old fuck who hated kids and clearly shouldn’t have been running a candy store. Behind the counter on a low shelf, he had Playboy and my boy, Elihu Selter — who was, like, a master thief — stole Playboy from Bob every month.
What movie scared you most as a kid?
Disney’s The Black Hole. This movie is about a spaceship teetering on the brink of a black hole and eventually they end up in realm that you could only describe as hell. How is that a kid’s movie? I watched it again when I was, like, 25 and I was terrified.
Do you have a pop culture blind spot?
Pop music. I never hear these songs that become these national touchstones. I was at a playdate with my daughter the other day. Again, she fucks with classic funk and soundclash tunes. She’s a big Nas fan. These other kids just wanted to hear “Call Me Maybe” over and over again. The father who was playing it for them looked at me like, “Man, I bet you’re sick of this song.” I’m like, “Dude, I’ve actually never heard this song before.” I’m not exposed to that shit. Twenty minutes in, I was considering knocking myself unconscious.
Heaven forbid, you’re on death row — what’s your last meal?
I imagine you get all types of slick answers. Like, if you had dim sum, you could just keep ordering more dumplings. But maybe on death row, you just want comfort food. Maybe I’d go with some eggplant parmesan. I’m from Boston and the one thing Boston does well is what we call a sub. Other places they call it a hoagie or whatever. You can go to Boston and get an eggplant parmesan sub that’s bangin’. You should do that. I would recommend getting off the plane, getting that, and then getting back on the next plane back to New York.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1994 Eagle Summit — green. I had that car in Brooklyn and then I drove it across country with all my shit, a cat, and a woman.
What was the first song you knew all the words to?
Probably Run DMC’s “Sucker MC’s.” I didn’t get on it when it first came out. I was probably, like, 10.
For me, it was (Special Ed’s) “I Got It Made.”
“I Got It Made” is a perfect song. You couldn’t improve that song in any way. Special Ed is killing it. Everything about that song is amazing. Especially the fact that he doesn’t even have a chef. He has a waiter who cooks. He’s got it made — whatever — but he’s still frugal enough to have thought that he doesn’t have to separate out his kitchen staff. You know what I mean? It’s just him, yunno. Maybe DJ Akshun Luv is over to eat, or Howie Tee, or 40 Luv, or whoever. But he doesn’t need a cook and a waiter. “Cook the food, bring it to the table, and I’m going to call you the waiter even though you are also the cook… because I’m Special Ed. Whatever happens in the kitchen is not my problem. I see you as a waiter.”
What’s your favorite mistake?
Apropos of talking up the new book, I made some brilliant mistakes with the last book. One of the ways that it got out into the world was through a PDF that we had put together for book sellers because we feared that they would not support a book called Go The Fuck To Sleep. This PDF leaked and was ricocheting all over the internet and we were terrified. We thought that this meant that we would not sell any books. We were trying to somehow pull it back. We were unable to do that, so it ended up free in hundreds of thousands of people’s mailbox — the whole book. Luckily for us, it’s bad form to show up at a baby shower with a low-resolution, printed-out, stapled-together PDF and be, like, “Here. Congratulations. This is a wonderful time in your life.” Putting that PDF together was a mistake. Sending it out was a mistake. Trying to stop it from spreading was a mistake. But those things made people feel a sense of ownership in the book’s success. For everyone that they forwarded it to, they felt like they were a kind of shareholder. And they were… You’re not going to edit this, right? It’s just going to be me and you talking about Special Ed?
(You Have to Fucking Eat is available now.)