The Fall Of Black Sitcoms, Kriss Kross, and Today’s Negative Display of ‘Young Rap’

2 May



Something in hip hop happened, very important today. I think it’s important that the hip hop culture sits down and listen. Now, hear me out, I’m no rap god, equipped with every righteous thing about hip hop, its creation, or history. So hear me out.

Chris Kelly, one half member of Kriss Kross died May 1st 2013, shaking up the memories of so many 80’s babies who were in tuned to radio, thumb-through magazines, and television sitcoms. You know the black ones? The sitcoms with countless seasons, displaying those citizens with ‘brown skin’ in a positive light – more positive than a fist fight for a ‘Reality Show Reunion’? Those. First off, I provide prayer and thoughts to the family of Chris Kelly. These are truly just my thoughts, with sadness on my heart about a piece of my childhood gone.

Now, the sensational group Kriss Kross hit Billboard charts parking their success there [at #1] for eight whole weeks. Their single ‘Jump’ was a certified double platinum hit. The Kriss Kross wave shifted our desires in fashion and style, dance, and even some empowering ‘back up’ for us kids who may have worn our clothes a little ‘different’. Back pockets were turned to the front, if you were a die-hard Kriss Kross fan. Television shows, especially AA sitcoms, sort of welcomed these artists with open arms, even with their rebel look of attire, and ‘high voltage’ produced beats. The questions that I developed while watching the Kriss Kross sitcom episode was: Where are we now? I mean, as I sat and watched the classic episode of Different World, when the group appeared as featured guests, and instead of Chris Kelly’s face in that chair, I envisioned Chief Keef’s. What happened to the writers with ideas, to help those who may be a bit off track, present themselves to the world with more sincere and ‘changed’ intentions.

I reference the very popular 90’s sitcom ‘Different World’ a Cosby production, having the two Billboard stars on the show as guest stars in a class that ‘Dwayne Wayne’ [Kadeem Hardison] played as their teacher. Dwayne noticed something wasn’t wrong with the lifestyle of Kelly, and even paid Kelly’s father a visit. Apparently, Kelly played a ‘troubled teen’ in and out of juvenile detention centers. To the world, we viewed him as popular star ‘Mac Daddy’ of Kriss Kross. There was an opportunity this ‘kid rap star’ to be presented in a way where he could help assisting in teaching a lesson to the youth about gun violence. During the clip, Kelly displayed very amped up and negative emotions about the subject of violence, and wanting to ‘kill another kid’ due to something as simple as being ‘dissed’. The two artists played ‘gang bangers’, similar to our very plentiful era of young rappers today: Chief Keef, Lil Mouse, Lil Reese, etc. Actor Kadeem Hardison gave the two artists some jewels of inspiration, using fleas in a jar as an analogy, encouraging the boys to be anything they wanted to be.

Who knows how many household living rooms this episode ‘touched’?  African American majority casted sitcoms flooded our networks at one time. Most of us kids, especially in environments way tougher than our makeup, didn’t have cable networks. The sitcoms given to us on these stations showed us our own entertainment, in a different light, giving rappers, who raised eyebrows in ‘modern society’, the chance to display themselves in a positive light. This allowed for children who thought it was ‘cool’ to listen to Kriss Kross, now see their favorite group in a manner different light, far from what people ‘may judge us to be’.

Those times vanished along with righteous female hip hop, and we welcomed the artists, and allowed media and critics to paint true images of their day to day – reality TV life. Pure entertainment it is. I don’t believe that anyone can argue that, but was nonfiction the proper ‘sellout’ to legendary acting filled black family sitcoms? Is reality TV all we have to help kids become inspired by their favorite rap artists? Did we all channel our attention to ‘real’ so much that we forgot about what those really good ‘fictive written plots’, providing many jobs for writers like myself in Black Hollywood to compose? Not stating that there isn’t any more great people trying to keep the hope of sitcom television alive (i.e. Tyler Perry), but a piece that supported hip hop is gone. Children who love hip hop are given the ‘naked eye’ of their favorite rapper nowadays, their twitter feeds and Instagram pages. They are inhaling their ‘rich lifestyle’ favorite artist’s true life, even if it’s too mature for their viewing. The founders of the group Kriss Kross, Jermaine Dupri had the right things in mind when it came to ‘image of young stars’.

See, the two boys wore clothes that hung off their bodies, extra large sports jerseys and dreads. They probably wore hoodies too. Black sitcom television had a way with incorporating ‘life lesson’ scripts and the latest youth crave. Different World used Kriss Kross, two totally ‘krossed out’ young boys with tough rhymes and cool moves. Today, can we say that media helps provide these inspiring visuals of our youth’s favorite artists? Kriss Kross members crossed over to Nickelodeon Networks, singing the ‘Rugrat’s Rap’, which was released on The Best of Nicktoons CD (1988). I didn’t misspell Nickelodeon did I? How huge is that? Now, there is no way that Chief Keef’s music could be compared to that of Kriss Kross’s. Please don’t take my comparisons too far. There was a time during hip hop, the early nineties to be exact, where young artists had boundaries as to what types of lyricism they would create.

These songs were fun, made you laugh, and really had no too-serious context in it for children. Kriss Kross’s single “I Missed the Bus”, was a hyped song about something so common and aggravating for children my age. A ten year old now, who channels their ears towards the hip hop of today’s youth, may come across a Chief Keef video on YouTube, yelling bang bang. Maybe they’ll scroll upon a Lil Mouse video, with adult women surrounding him for pleasure. Sitcoms began to die off long before the gruesome discoveries of gang banging ‘young street rap’. So don’t toss up any tales that artists didn’t support those roles. Truth of the matter is, when black television sitcoms began their extinction of being booted off networks to provide space for ‘reality shows’, so did those plentiful opportunities for positively viewed roles of today’s African American entertainers.


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