11 Things We Learned From Last Night’s ‘Tanning Of America’ Premiere

1 of 12
  • steve-stoute-tanning-of-america
    Nas, Steve Stoute, the Reverend Al Sharpton, longtime Def Jam publicist Bill Adler, FUBU founder Daymond John, and even comedian Jerry Seinfeld all showed up to the premiere of the first two episodes of VH1's four-part <em>Tanning Of America</em> series, based on Stoute's book of the same name that tracks the rise and increasing influence of hip-hop in the mainstream world. The premiere, held at the Paley Center For Media in midtown Manhattan, focused on the various aspects of hip-hop's influence in pop culture, from the clothing to the art to the marketing to the politics and, of course, the music.<br /><br /> Following the screening of the first two episodes—the first of which covers the years of 1970-1986, with the second detailing 1987-1992—a five-person panel which included Nas, Stoute, John, Sharpton and Fab 5 Freddy and was moderated by Gayle King spoke about the experience of growing up in and shaping the culture which has emerged as an undeniable force in American identity. <em>XXL</em> was on hand for the premiere—the first episode of which airs on VH1 on Monday, Feb. 24—and collected eleven things we learned from the screening and the panel discussion afterward, from lessons on <em>Good Times</em> vs. <em>Happy Days</em> to Eazy-E's reaction to the FBI taking notice of N.W.A's lyrics. <em>—Dan Rys (<a title="danrys" href="https://twitter.com/danrys" target="_blank">@danrys</a>)</em>
  • stoute tanning america
    The interviews that went into the show were extensive and exhaustive. Here's a complete list of those interviewed in the first two episodes, premiered last night at the screening: Nas, Diddy, Mariah Carey, Rick Rubin, Will.I.Am, Dr. Dre, Steve Stoute, Rev. Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons, Melvin Van Peebles, Nelson George, Dan Charnas (author of <em>The Big Payback</em>), Brett Ratner, longtime Def Jam publicist Bill Adler, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, iconic television producer Norman Lear, Mona Scott-Young, Ron Howard, Fab 5 Freddy, Rev Run, FUBU founder Daymond John, Marc Ecko, Jonathan Schecter, Touré, Ben Horowitz, Meg Cox (who wrote the first <em>Wall Street Journal</em> story on Russell Simmons in 1984), Naomi Campbell, Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, Dapper Dan, Lyor Cohen, Revolt CEO Keith Clinkscales and author Joan Walsh. Whew.
  • diddy-tanning
    The Blaxploitation film genre—pioneered by director Melvin Van Peebles—gave Diddy the "audacity" to dream of success.
  • Good_Times_the_Evans_family_1974
    The success of <em>Good Times</em> made <em>Happy Days</em>—which aired at the same time and on the same night as <em>Good Times</em>—focus more on Fonzie, whose effortless cool and over-reliance on a catchphrase made him similar to <em>Good Times</em>' Jimmie Walker. "Jimmie Walker sold more lunchboxes than the Fonz," said <em>Happy Days</em> star and director Ron Howard, as related by Steve Stoute during the session's panel. "That's the only thing we heard."
  • trayvon-martin
  • fab5freddy
    Fab 5 Freddy referred to early MTV, and its initial boycott of black artists until the likes of Michael Jackson and Prince made them impossible to ignore, as "Television Apartheid."
  • rev run
    Rev run relates the "legend" of the hook to Run-DMC's "My Adidas." According the the legend—and to Run who repeated it— Def Jam honcho and Run's brother Russell Simmons smoked a bag of Angel Dust and wouldn't stop talking about his Adidas. Thus, the song, which eventually landed Run-DMC a million-dollar Adidas sponsorship.
  • mariah-carey
    Mariah Carey heard N.W.A for the first time in "a white kid's house." She referred to the incident as, "Uncomfortable."
  • Dr.-Dre
    "We gave them a safe look into the hood," Dr. Dre said about why so many white kids fell in love with N.W.A's music. He then pointed to a particular tour he was on with the group where they looked into the crowd and realized they were looking back at a sea of white faces. "That's when we realized that we were branching into something we didn't even understand."
  • The-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air
    "What Bill Cosby started, Will Smith put on steroids," Stoute said, referring to <em>The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air</em>, which took a Cosby-esque formula and injected a hip-hop element into it when the show first aired in 1990.
  • Eazy-E
    When the FBI infamously sent a letter to N.W.A telling them to stop writing songs like "Fuck Tha Police," Dr. Dre said that none of the group was scared; in fact, they were excited. Dre says that Eazy-E initially wanted to call the officer who sent the letter to thank him for the free publicity, which the group needed at the time as radio was refusing to play their music.
  • nas tanning of america
    At one point during the panel, Nas was asked by moderator Gayle King what made him initially fall in love with hip-hop. "Early '80s," Nas responded. "The early stuff was [Afrika] Bambataa, Zulu Nation, 'Planet Rock,' T La Rock. Run-DMC came in and just nailed it. When Ralph McDaniels [the creator of the infamous Video Music Box television channel] started his show, we would run home from school to watch. It was on channel 31, but it was empty channels until it got to [that channel]... It was kinda cool that we had to go there to get it."