The Revolution Will Be Televised: 10 Shows That Embrace Hip-Hop (But Aren’t About It)

From the 1981 20/20 story on Kurtis Blow to Vh1’s fifth season of Love and Hip-Hop that just ended, rap has come a long way on the small screen.  In fact, now in 2015, Hip-Hop is so much a part of pop culture that it is embedded into programming in a way that it never has before.  There are Hip-Hop themed shows that aren’t about Hip-Hop.  Rap does continue to be the  “the Black CNN,” (Word to Chuck D) but it has also proven to be a part of so many other people’s lives too – regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or sexual orientation.

In a nutshell, rap has again established that people share more similarities than differences.  And so to acknowledge that, and the fact TV has picked up on it too, AllHipHop has come up with a list of current shows that rep Hip-Hop to the fullest, even if it’s not the focal point of the program.  The revolution will not be televised, so be sure to tune in!

10). Saturday Night Live: SNL and Hip-Hop are very close in age – the former celebrated 40 years in February and the latter turns 42 in August.  Therefore, it’s not surprising that the two of them have crossed paths on numerous occasions.

9). First Take: Even if one doesn’t follow sports, hearing Skip Bayless talk to and about rappers when they’re guests is worth the price of admission alone.

8). Workaholics: This Comedy Central hit chronicles the lives of three guys in their mid-twenties who work as telemarketers.  Hip-Hop is incorporated into the show by various references, and the way in which it is done so casually proves that rap in engrained the DNA of millions of Millenials.

7). Tosh.OThe “Web Redemption” is funny, but the monologue leading up to it is even funnier.  The Internet and Daniel Tosh are merciless when it comes to all kinds of embarrassing moments and Hip-Hop, in this case DJing,  is no exception.

6). Key & PeeleThe Peabody Awards put it best when they recognized the show in 2013: “For its stars and their creative team’s inspired satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture, Key & Peele receives a Peabody Award.”

5). Jimmy Kimmel Live!: Jimmy Kimmel welcomes Hip-Hop with open arms.  The difference between the two Jimmys [see next list item] is that Kimmel forces Hip-Hop to laugh at itself.  Considering that Hip-Hop is often very angry and serious, Jimmy K’s use of it is often a much needed dose of comic relief.  Need proof?  Check out “Ice Cube Says Nice Things Angrily” and/or the unforgettable Kanye West interview parody.

4). The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: The Roots are his band.  Will Smith was his first guest.  He got Neil Young to sing “Fancy” with Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Jimmy Fallon doesn’t just support Hip-Hop, he uses it to bridge the gap between generations.  And his millions of viewers are better off because of it. 

3). Blackish: As the title suggests, Blackish is a show that explores cultural identity within an African-American family.  It is refreshing to see stereotypes challenged, and yet, also, in an entertaining way, look at nature vs. nurture.  The show does an excellent job of paying respect to the past and looking ahead to the future.  And perhaps the greatest example of this is in the pilot episode where Andre Jr. has a Bar Mitzvah in old school Hip-Hop threads.

2). Empire: Fox’s ratings juggernaut may seem like Hip-Hop is its focus on the surface, but it really isn’t.  The show is more Dallas than Yo! MTV Raps in many respects because it’s a soap opera about a dysfunctional family.  If the acting performances were just as strong, Empire would be just as interesting if the Lyon family were in the restaurant business.  The Hip-Hop theme of it all just generates a better soundtrack.

1). Fresh Off the Boat: Set in the 90’s, this sitcom is the story of Eddie Huang and his family who move from Washington D.C. to Orlando.  And in order to cope with his new surroundings and acquaintances, Eddie turns to Hip-Hop.  As someone just under the age of 30, the nostalgia value of this show is very high and the trip down memory lane it takes me on (and I’m sure many others) is as vivid as track 6 from the album on Eddie’s shirt in the opening credits, Illmatic.

What’s your favorite of these shows and why?  Please let us know in the comments section!

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