With my partner in Lime, Prof submitting a heavy, thoughtful, and informative piece about the Israeli Palestine conflict, I thought I’d balance out the content this week by writing about funny moments in Hip Hop history. I love to laugh. Comedies and sitcoms tend to be what I gravitate towards in the film realm. That said however, being funny typically isn’t a central focus in Hip Hop, or music in general. The topics for Rap music are varied; from politics and social consciousness, to style and swagger, to partying and blinging, to keeping it real and representing. Comedy however isn’t big for Hip Hop. Occasionally a song like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” or “Thrift Shop” which present rappers in more lighthearted, self-effacing contexts does well, but while those stories may be “chuckle-worthy” if you will, they’re not laugh out loud hysterical. That said, every once in a while something hilarious happens in Hip Hop. Typically the funny in these moments is unintentional, and for me that’s what makes them so enjoyable. It’s not only what happened, but thinking about what may have been going on in the heads of those involved that I find truly hysterical about these instances. With that in mind, here are 4 moments in Hip Hop that for a variety of reasons, always crack me up.
4) Suge Knight – “All in the videos. All on the records. Dancing.”
“Funny” isn’t typically the first word that comes to mind when people talk about this moment of Hip Hop infamy from the 1995 Source Awards. We all know the backdrop: Suge approaching the peak of his run as the head of Death Row Row Records taking a direct shot at Sean “Puffy” Combs, the head of Bad Boy Records; Death Row’s main competition at the time. Many trace the start of the East Coast vs. West Coast mid-90s Rap feud to this moment, and given how tragically all that ended, it’s easy to discredit any funny in this moment. Trust me, I get that. But take away the historical context of the 24 months or so that followed the ’95 Source Awards, in and of itself watching Suge go up there and deliver his acceptance speech, and then going into an off the cuff mini-rant about Puffy’s perceived over-involvement in his artists’ material always gets a rise out of me.
Probably a bit tipsy, after thanking a handful of people for their involvement in Death Row’s success, Suge starts the Puffy dig with a slurred “and one other thing I’d like to say,” then announces to his audience, “any artist out there that wanna be an artist and wanna stay a star”, and eventually gets into dissing (but never actually naming) Puff; “that don’t have to worry about the executive producer tryin’ to be…” And this is where I start to laugh. Suge draws out his speech for emphasis, “all in the videoooos, all in the records…” and then pauses again, as if thinking to himself, ‘what else does this clown do on camera? oh yeah…’ – “DANCING, come to Death Row!” It was a controversial moment that played a major role in shaping the course of Rap for years to follow. But just the fact that Suge decided to attack Puff at an award show is amusing in that he actually had that little respect for not only Puff, but the event itself. It was Suge’s time, and in Suge’s world, no way a dancing in the video, shiny suit wearing, executive producing hype man who adlibs too much on tracks was going to take his spot. So he calls out Puff, drawing out phrases with a mocking tone being the goal, but falling way short because sarcasm and wit aren’t really Suge’s strong points. And he had a point; Puff was always dancing in videos and had his vocals all over his artists’ songs. It was funny because it was true. Given that Suge’s known for his straightforward intimidation tactics, when he stepped out of his character and tried to be backhanded and subtle, the results were hilarious.
3) Jay Z taps out Lil’ Mama
During the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, for some ungodly reason Lil’ Mama (whose star power doesn’t come close to matching either Alicia Keys’ or Jay Z’s) decided it was a good idea to “join” them during their performance of the smash hit, “New York”. That in and of itself was hilarious, but in the first clip above, at about the 19 second mark Jay Z taps Lil’ Mama in the leg as if to insinuate, “that’s cute sport, now get off the stage and let us do our thing here.” Combine that with the horror on Beyonce’s face as she tries but fails to stop Lil’ Mama on her way to the stage along with the very evident snub from Jay and Alicia when they close the song back to back, having barely acknowledged Lil’ Mama’s presence (with Lil’ Mama standing awkwardly to the side in a b-boy stance, trying to save face), and it all adds up to another hilarious award show blunder. I appreciate that Lil’ Mama felt the energy of that song so much that she decided to crash the performance, but c’mon, you can’t actually allow yourself to go there, right? Well, apparently Lil’ Mama thought differently, and though I can’t agree with her actions, for comedy’s sake I’m glad she did it.
(Side Note: There was another Alicia Keys related moment I remember watching way back in 2002, where Puff Daddy was presenting her an award for her hit album, ‘Songs in A Minor’ and inexplicably misread the teleprompter, referring to the record as ‘Songs in a Mirror’. As funny as that was, lamentably, this is one of the few times the internet has failed me as though I search for about 2 hours, I could not find a copy of this clip online. If anyone can track that down, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet me (@Scholar_JPL) the link. My funny bone thanks you in advance.)
2) Kanye West – “HOW SWAY?!?!?”
Kanye’s good for controversy. Whether calling out George Bush on live TV after Katrina, beating up the paparazzi, or mid-show diatribes about being marginalized, Yeezie’s strong views and personality keep him in the news. Many of the incidents he’s involved in aren’t funny at all, and when he’s having those moments comedy is not typically the intent (not to say that he can’t poke a little fun at himself). That said, it’s his fight with Sway from November of 2013 that I find hilarious and cracks me up every time I see the video.
Discussing Kanye’s ongoing battles with the high-fashion industry, Sway introduces a hypothetical situation of Kanye building a smaller clothing line and working his way up to high-fashion. At this point, Kanye, who’s invested many man-hours studying and millions of his own money to break into the high-fashion world, becomes infuriated and disgusted at Sway for even posing the question in the first place. From the moment he yells out, “HOW SWAY!?!?” to the now infamous, “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS!!!” to “you ain’t been doing the education!” to mocking Sway’s failed attempt at his own smaller clothing line, “it ain’t no RALPH though, it ain’t RALPH level. What’s the NAME of your clothing line?!?!? We don’t KNOW!!!” – the hits just keep on coming. The way Kanye puts emphasis on certain words and phrases and the sheer look of repugnance he has throughout the tirade makes the moment even funnier. We all know how confident Kanye is, but to watch how much Sway’s questioning insulted him, seemingly at his core, and hear him combat everything Sway threw at him (“ain’t no hold up!”, “I ain’t trying to disrespect you PERIOD! Let me talk if you gonna have me talk!”), it just made for great internet TV. To his credit, Kanye did go on to apologize to Sway for turning up, and eventually provided an articulate and passionate explanation of his struggles in high-fashion. But that brief 2 minutes or so where Sway pissed him off stand out as one of the funnier, impromptu moments I’ve ever seen in Hip Hop.
1) ODB – “I went out and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money, today, because I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win.”
As much as I enjoyed all the moments we’ve already mentioned, nothing cracks me up more than Ol’ Dirty Bastard rushing the stage at 1998 Grammy Awards. With the Wu-Tang Clan having lost the award for Best Rap Album Category earlier in the night to Puff Daddy, a disappointed ODB waited until Shawn Colvin was walking up to the podium to accept her Song of the Year award for “Sunny Came Home” to convey his frustrations. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel for Shawn Colvin. Nobody deserves to have their celebratory moment interrupted, and I don’t condone ODB’s methods here. But versus another famous award acceptance interruption, namely Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, where to this day most attack Kanye’s actions as rude, self-centered, and highly inappropriate, when ODB did it, it amused us on so many levels. To most it was classic Dirty being Dirty and we laughed it off if only because we had grown accustomed to enjoying his eccentric, amusing, and often inebriated public persona.
Kanye’s polarizing, and though not all of his “rants” should be dismissed as just him being a jerk (the man does make many valid points that too many media outlets too often attempt to discredit), because he toes the line between confidence and arrogance (and some would argue that’s mildly put), it’s easy for people to attack him for the Taylor Swift incident. ODB didn’t have that arrogant stigma. If anything, as much as we grooved to his music, we also loved him because he consciously tried to entertain us and make us laugh. However you may feel about the appropriateness of picking up a welfare check in a limo, how can you not laugh out loud when watching that bit from MTV News? As such, when Dirty went up on stage and ranted about the money he spent on his fancy suit because he was sure Wu-Tang would win, at first your jaw dropped but ultimately you just had to smile. And it only got better from there. “I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best.”
A clearly inebriated ODB, in a fancy, crimson suit that ‘costed’ him a pretty penny, bumrushing the stage during someone else’s acceptance speech to proclaim that the Wu-Tang Clan, a hardcore rap group, was for the children. His attempt at diplomacy, that is acknowledging that he appreciates Puffy but that Wu-Tang Clan is ‘the best’ just made it even funnier for me. You know, because interrupting Shawn Colvin to make his point was okay, but he’s gotta make sure Puff’s ego isn’t too bruised. Pure gold. You can’t script that type of stuff. And not to beat the Kanye comparison to the ground, but it didn’t hurt that ODB closed with some degree of politeness; “I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all, peace.” It softened the blow in terms of the potential backlash for interrupting another artist at the Grammys. We knew it was messed up, but it was funny. It was one of those seminal ODB moments and to his credit he did wish everyone a good night before being ushered off the stage. You just can’t stay mad at ODB. It’s just much more enjoyable to laugh at his antics than it is to castigate him for them. He is truly missed.
That concludes my list. I hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting these moments and that you can appreciate the funny in them, even if you hadn’t previously. To reiterate, Hip Hop isn’t really a forum where comedy is often intended or even celebrated when it does occur. But as stated earlier, I love to laugh, and when you’re someone who enjoys a good laugh, finding comedy in places one wouldn’t normally look becomes somewhat of an art form. It’s one of the unintended reasons that a lot of reality shows like ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ and ‘Love & Hip Hop’ have some success. They’re not necessarily supposed to be funny, but many of the ridiculous things that occur on those shows are so out there that some of us just have to laugh at them. It’s the same with these moments in Hip Hop. Starting a bi-coastal feud, interrupting your peers during their time to shine, verbally attacking your interviewer, etc… aren’t intended to make one laugh, but the way those moments played out resulted in high comedy. And as much as I love Hip Hop for the culture and the music, at times I just like to ease up and smile at some of the off the cuff stuff that’s happened over the years. It’s a feel-good, healthy practice, and you better believe I can’t wait for that next rant or blunder to occur so that I can play that video clip over and over again.