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Is Mo’Nique The New Arsenio Hall?

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be watching The Mo’Nique Show. From the few times I did peep it, it was just too much coonin’ for my liking. Remember, I’m not Jewish so I should be able to freely comment on “coonin’” with no qualms #Thanx.

Anyway, despite respecting how far Mo’ has come, I just wasn’t a big fan of her show. All the “ooh, baby” and overall screaming makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a bad (wait, aren’t they all?) Tyler Perry movie.

But, for whatever the reason, I was flicking through the channels last week, looking for some background noise while burning the pre-midnight oil, when I saw Big Daddy Kane dancing across Mo’Nique’s stage. It’s not every day, well, technically night, you get to see a legendary MC getting burn on TV so I checked out the performance and he definitely got the job done (no pun intended).

I guess Mo’Nique was doing some kind of old school hip-hop night or something because during the course of the next hour Special Ed, Chubb Rock, Dana Dane and DJ Red Alert graced the stage, performing classic cuts from their catalog. They all killed it and dropped some jewels during their respective interview segments as well.

Dane and Red might be just a year or two before I really got into hip-hop, but I remember Chubb vividly and Special Ed is my idol, my highest title—numero uno. Seriously, “I Got it Made” is the first rap song I could recite word for word and Ed is the reason I got into rap. #TrueStory.

The nostalgic moment reminded me of when seeing your favorite rap acts on the small screen performing and being interviewed was more of a regular thing. Sure, you had a few appearances by hip-hop stars on the late night talk show circuit, but when you wanted to see a little diversity all you pretty much had was Soul Train and The Arsenio Hall Show. By time I got into Soul Train it was a lip-syncing shell of its former self, but Arsenio was always the real deal.

During its five-year run, the show brought hip-hop, urban and pop culture live and direct to our homes five days a week. Before cable was a staple in every home (Read: mandatory), FaceBook fan pages or Twitter, The Arsenio Hall Show was a basic TV godsend. Not only did it feature an African-American host, but it also highlighted many rising rap artists. I specifically remember when Brand Nubian first came out and my entire high school was clamoring about seeing their performance of “One For All” on Arsenio that week.

There were a lot of memorable hip-hop moments that occurred on Arsenio’s show; from his beef with Vanilla Ice, to Eazy-E’s infamous interview in a bathrobe (pre-Ghostface), to his numerous Tupac talks. When the L.A. riots happened Arsenio was there to cover it; when Magic Johnson got AIDS he spoke to Arsenio, when Bill Clinton wanted to reach the Black community he played the sax on Arsenio’s show; and when Min. Farrakhan had a message to get across he holla’d at Arsenio.

I could go on and on, but you get the point…

Arsenio was the man and his show was the ish. It wasn’t just a Black thing, the list of guests ran the racial gamut, but Hall’s hip-hop connection was undeniable. That’s why it was so sad to see the show go off the air on May 27, 1994. A few cats tried to fill the void like Sinbad and even Magic Johnson, but there was nothing that came close to Arsenio.

The same holds true for Mo’Nique but after actually watching her show last week she might be on to something. The episodes that I have seen featured full interviews with folks the likes of Fat Joe, who on any other late night show would be a performer at best—probably a guest verse on someone else’s song—and would never get any couch time or air time. Mo’, however, chops it up with artists, actors, comedians and politicians on the regular. Where else can you find that on television in 2010?

As much as I still hate Mo’Nique’s over the top antics, she might actually be the best show in town since Arsenio in terms of providing a platform for hip-hop artists to get some national shine on a regular basis. Just my thoughts; what’s on your mind? —Anslem Samuel


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