Barack Obama Says He Really Is Making Those Playlists: "I Am Very Scrupulous"

"Unless I'm actually listening to it, watching it, reading it, I won't put it on there"

BY Kaelen BellPublished Jun 22, 2023

Barack Obama wants you to know that he really does have excellent, genre-agnostic, finger-on-the-pulse taste. Every year, Obama releases playlists, film lists and reading lists — the song lists in particular are always suspiciously hip and zeitgeist-tuned (in December of 2022, his playlist included Plains, Ethel Cain, Sudan Archives and Bad Bunny), and it's always been widely assumed that they're PR engineered, or at the very least assembled by his daughters or a cool crew of interns. 

In a new interview with comedian Hasan Minhaj however, Obama insists that the lists really do reflect his own taste, and he's tired of people thinking otherwise. 

"I do! Listen. I am so glad that I have this opportunity," Obama answered when Minhaj asked about whether he makes the playlists himself. "People, they believe the books and the movies, but the playlists, they somehow think — and this is mostly coming from young people like you — somehow, y'all think you invented rock 'n' roll. You invented hip-hop. And so the fact that my lists are, you know, pretty incredible — people seem to think, well, he must've had some 20-year-old intern who was figuring out this latest cut. No, man! It's on my iPad right now."

Minhaj goes on to ask Obama whether he has Sir and Scribz Riley's song "Life Is Good" — which was on the former president's year-end playlist — on his iPad currently. "Yes, I do. Come on, man. Don't play with me," Obama responded. 

Minhaj also asks Obama to tell him the plotline of Abdul Razak Gurnah's novel After Lives, which was included on his book list, but Obama declines, citing the half-hour interview time. Suspicious? Perhaps! But also, good luck to anyone asked on the spot to explain the plot of any given book they read a year ago.  

In summary, Obama explained: 

Look, here's the bottom line of my playlists and my book lists and my movie lists. I am very scrupulous about making sure that this is stuff that I actually like. I will confess that there are times — on the playlists, on the music lists — where I will get suggestions. Because it's not like I got time to be listening to music all the time. So typically, at the end of the year, what happens is folks will be like, "Man, you need to listen to this. This is good." But unless I'm actually listening to it, watching it, reading it, I won't put it on there.

You can watch the interview below.

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