Very rarely do Saturday Night Live host announcements make a big impact. For the most part, it's either celebrities hyping a movie or if an all-time favorite like Justin Timberlake has a free weekend. But when Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest were announced, the internet lost it — and rightfully so. This would be the first time the reclusive comic has done sketch comedy in a decade. Even more surprising was the announcement that hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest would be performing.
Considered one of the best groups of all time, A Tribe Called Quest were pioneers of alternative hip hop. As surprising as this musical guest was initially, it actually makes sense. While hardly In Living Color, this pop culture institution has a history of supporting hip hop before most shows would give it a second thought. As a matter of fact, it has represented the scene since the beginning.
That's The Joint
Even though it is easy to joke about #SNL softening its image over the years, it really was a force for the counter culture in the past. The sketch comedy show provided some of the earliest exposure for groundbreaking acts like Fear, Patti Smith and Blondie. As great as the show was for rock acts, they did wonders getting rap into homes across the nation. Thanks to guest host and Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry's enthusiasm, Funky 4 + 1 became the first hip hop act to perform on national TV. After much convincing from Harry and Blondie guitarist Chase Stein (including having to explain what scratching is), the formative group performed their single "That's The Joint" as seen below at the 11-minute mark.
While Funky 4 + 1 was the first rap group to appear on #SaturdayNightLive, it wasn't until 1986 when the floodgates really opened. On October 18, 1986, the first musical guest of the season were Rock N Roll Hall of Famers Run DMC. After these New York rappers made their debut, rappers like LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane made appearances in the years to follow, cementing hip hop as a force to be reckoned with.
Public Enemies And Sure Shots
By the 1990s, the mainstream started to realize hip hop was more than just a passing fad. Staying ahead of the curve, not only did Saturday Night Live have more rap musical guests, but they also featured more variety. In 1991, SNL had Vanilla Ice, Def Jam originals Public Enemy and MC Hammer, who hosted the December 11th episode. Unfortunately, that show was kind of a mess. Hammer's fame was already starting to fade, and he did an overall poor job of hosting the episode, which was full of awkward line delivery and a monologue in the third person for some crazy, unknown reason.
As bad as that episode was, it didn't stop Lorne from bringing in more hip hop acts. In fact, as unhip as the show could be in the mid-'90s, they stayed surprisingly in sync with what was big in the hip hop scene. When you look back, pretty much every rapper brought on to perform is considered a legend. When the west coast was popping, they brought on Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur. When the East Coast started to gain momentum in the mid-'90s, Puff Daddy, the Beastie Boys and DMX also got a shot on stage. We even saw a young Eminem appear with Dr. Dre in 1999 to perform "Forgot About Dre."
By the time we hit the new millennium, rappers coming on the show was a regular thing. It seemed like every few weeks a major star like Kanye West, 50 Cent or Jay Z would make an appearance. You even had one-hit-wonders like J-Kwon performing. With hip hop mainstream than ever we finally saw it properly integrated into the comedy. All it took was one of YouTube's earliest viral hits.
Lazy Sunday And Beyond
It is easy to forget, but "Lazy Sunday" broke the internet before breaking the internet was a thing. One of the first big Lonely Island joints, a hardcore New York parody about seeing The Chronicles of Narnia, was talked about for days. Thanks to the song's viral success and a crew of younger, more experimental talents like The Lonely Island, we saw an influx of new rap-inspired humor. There were hip hop-based skits before, but they were fairly basic premises, like the Couple of White Guys Rap skit or Eminem meeting wacky rappers. Instead, we got more specific skits like Blizzard Man and The Jay Z Story that delved a bit more into world of hip hop. After that, it wasn’t uncommon to see rappers like Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar in skits or digital shorts.
They even gave rappers another shot at hosting after the Hammer fiasco. Performers like Ludacris, Snoop Dogg and Queen Latifah took the stage at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to general acclaim. Most recently, Drake hosted the show for a second time. Hot off the release of Views, the Canadian crooner was on top of the world. Even more impressive was that he had one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season.
While he may not have been the best host, he brought the kind of charisma and earnestness to his appearance you want in a host. More importantly, having the biggest rapper in the world as your main attraction spoke volumes about hip hop's spot in pop culture today.
Can I Kick It?
A Tribe Called Quest appearing on Saturday Night Live was a shock, but it really shouldn't be. Despite the show's trouble with diversity at times, SNL has shown love for hip hop for quite some time. And with Dave Chappelle set to host right after this election, it was always going to be a memorable night.
Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest appeared on Saturday, November 12, on NBC
Who else remembers that time SNL had Natalie Portman rap?
Who would you like to see host SNL? Any particular musical guest? Let me know in the comments!