While appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s on September 29th, Justin Timberlake and host segued from a conversation about Timberlake’s new movie “The Social Network” to an unexpected, on the spot musical review of the history of rap. The Roots backed the pair as they imitated rappers ranging from Eminem and Beastie Boys (a pretty near perfect likeness) to 2Pac (not even close). The video made the news, got people talking, and will help promote the show, the movie, and with any luck, the actual history of hip hop with younger audiences.
Closing with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”, a song sure to be popular with Fallon’s New York audience, they found themselves in a sing-along before the end. As a set list, the song choices were mostly solid, memorable songs. But as a history of rap, how did the entertainers actually do?
An Early History Full of Holes
I’m going to have to say they were hit and miss. They were right to kick things off with Sugar Hill Gang – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” should have followed, in my opinion, but instead Run DMC was chosen next. Forgetting what this one is? “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge” ring a bell?
As a hip hop review, it’s also an understandable oversight to not include Eric B. and Rakim, for instance. Most MCs wouldn’t forgive the oversight, but the pair never received a lot of radio play back during the golden age of hip hop. Fallon and Timberlake were trying to connect to the audience, so let’s move on.
I have to agree adding some alternative rap was a good move, but seriously- “The Humpty Dance”? Why not Arrested Development’s “Tennessee”? Or maybe something a bit more modern, like OutKast?
They’re to be commended for including Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, and Biggie (and, I’ll say it, omitting 50 Cent). But no N.W.A, no Ice-T, no Ice Cube… pretty big oversights, I have to say. While any one of these three are hard to justify skipping in favor of Soulja Boy, I’d prefer 100 Mile and Runnin’ to almost any song chosen by the pair.
In fact, maybe they should do the whole thing over. They also managed to skip over L. L. Cool J, Queen Latifah,Cyprus Hill, and most damningly Public Enemy. When Public Enemy met Anthrax for 1991’s “Bring the Noise”, the results were a musical blend that helped turn the perception of both genres on their head, resulting in a huge influence on Nu Metal.
Of course, its easy to tear down this cool concept as I have without crediting the pair for what they’ve done, and I will say that as a musical selection for a one-off medley, it was fun to watch. You can draw your own conclusions by checking out the song on the L.A. Times Blog.
Songs Covered By Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon
Sugar Hill Gang: “Rapper’s Delight”
Run DMC: “Peter Piper”
The Beastie Boys: “Paul Revere”
A Tribe Called Quest: “Award Tour”
Digital Undergound: “Humpty Dance”
Snoop Dogg: “Ain’t Nutt’N But G Thang”
2Pac (featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman): “California Love”
The Notorious B.I.G: “Juicy”
The Roots: “The Seed (2.0)”
Eminem: “My Name Is”
Missy Elliot: “Work It”
Soulja Boy: “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”
T.I.: “Live Your Life”
Kanye West: “Golddigger”
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys: “Empire State Of Mind”
“Lil Kim” Wu Tan Clan
Christie D’Zurilla, “Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon and the history of rap” L.A. Times