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If You Want to Stay Woke, Watch Hood Adjacent with James Davis

It's Comedy Central's next great comedy about race

Megan Vick

If you want to get a humorous rundown of the latest Trump scandals, watch The Daily Show or any of the other late night talk shows. If you want to know what's going on in the neighborhoods around you, watch Hood Adjacent with James Davis.

The new Comedy Central show premieres Wednesday night and gives up-and-coming comedian James Davis free rein to tackle street-level issues and break down the racial divide on the ground level. Davis' show mixes his bluntly honest stand-up with pre-recorded bits digging deeper into viral "hood" stories, and shows the other perspective we often miss in mainstream media.

In the premiere episode, Davis tackles the racist foundation of "The Star Spangled Banner," pointing out Frances Scott Key's forgotten third verse celebrating the death of slaves. Davis doesn't follow up the announcement with a dissertation on the systemic racism embedded in American nationalism or breakdown Colin Kaepernick's controversial NFL protests of the anthem though. He adds a fun twist by making a trap cover of the national anthem, which Davis dubs the whitest song ever.

James Davis

James Davis

Peter Yang

Hood Adjacent's version of The Star Spangled Banner looks more like a tribute to Fetty Wap than America, making a bold, but valid point, about cultural appropriation. It's guised in the form of a music video though, so the show packs a powerful message without beating its audience over the head with it. You can pledge allegiance to the swag and still learn something, you know?

While Davis' Comedy Central counterpart The Daily Show gets bogged down in the never-ending slog of Capitol Hill drama -- breaking down political quagmires and Washington discourse -- Davis gets to cherry pick his issues and design his attack on a local level. It feels more personal to the audience, thus more poignant without the overwhelming sense of doom. The mix of the bits -- like Davis' adventures to get a hood pass or develop an appreciation for chitlins -- with Davis' self-deprecating stand-up gives the show the power to have the important conversations about the racial divide in America without turning it into a war.

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The comedian's strongest asset in the series is his own self-awareness. "Hood adjacent" is his own term for growing up close to the rap-famed neighborhood of South Central L.A. without really being part of the culture that made those streets infamous. He's a self-described outsider trying to get a better understanding of a misrepresented group of people he's often associated with due to the color of his skin. That perspective allows an audience, whether they also grew up in South Central or South Carolina, to follow Davis on a journey not only to correctly define "hood," but to dismantle the idea that being hood and being black are synonymous -- and prove neither should be demonized by the mainstream media.

Of course, it has to be funny for all of this to work. Davis has a unique perspective that makes the show feel fresh, while the stand-up/bit mix has The Chapelle Show vibes Comedy Central has been trying to re-create for years. Following in the steps of Key & Peele, Hood Adjacent isn't just the show the network need to be part of the ground-level conversation -- it's what everyone needs.

Hood Adjacent with James Davis premieres Wednesday, June 28 at 9/8c on Comedy Central.