The Fox sketch comedy show, created by actor/comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans, debuted in 1990, becoming one of television's most influential, revolutionary and successful sketch comedy shows. It launched the careers of some of entertainment's biggest names—Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson—comics who spoke the language of hip-hop and incorporated the culture in their comedy. The show's in-house DJ (a pre-stardom Shawn Wayans), harem of background dancers (dubbed the Fly Girls) and live performances from rap's hottest acts all added to the allure that drew in the hip-hop generation through the first half of the 1990s. Heavy D even wrote and recorded the show's theme song!
At the time, hip-hop was still a growing culture, far from being accepted by mainstream audiences. But In Living Color helped to crystalize the music and aesthetic. Nowhere else could you find Jim Carrey performing a knee-slapping remix of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" (elsewhere, the funnyman satirized White reggae artist Snow's No. 1 record, "Informer") or Jamie Foxx poking fun at Sir Mix-A-Lot's classic song "Baby Got Back." In Living Color brought hip-hop to nighttime TV in the most vibrant and hysterical way possible.
Although more than 25 years removed from its debut, In Living Color remains a staple of pop culture, evidenced by crooner and showman Bruno Mars' In Living Color-inspired visual to his Cardi B-assisted "Finesse (Remix)," which gave viewers a blast from the past, conjuring up memories of the iconic sketch show and its historical importance.
In light of the new video's nostalgia, XXL took a deep dive into In Living Color's archives to compile the most memorable hip-hop-moments from the show's five-season run.
"Rap Choir"Season 1, Episode 2
In Living Color embraced hip-hop from the show's onset. In this skit, a fictional Detroit group called The Motor City Homeboy Choir puts forth a beat-box routine that leaves conductor David Alan Grier in desperate need of a tissue.
"Cookin' with Salt-n-PepaSeason 1, Episode 7
In Living Color was a pioneer of hip-hop parody on the small screen. Salt-n-Pepa was the first rap act to be spoofed, as the legendary rap group's classic single "Push It" was spun into a song about getting busy in the kitchen. Kim Wayans, T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh and Kim Coles take on the roles of Salt, Pepa and DJ Spinderella, officially ushering the iconic show's hip-hop era.
"Disc Jokey, Death Jockey Trailer"Season 1, Episode 10
Prior to his own star turn alongside younger brother Marlon Wayans in the hit late '90s sitcom The Wayans Bros., Shawn Wayans was In Living Color's resident in-house DJ, spinning under the moniker DJ SW1. He didn't get much airtime during the first season, but this skit put a comedic spin on his turntable talents. It's an underrated moment from In Living Color's inaugural season.
"MC Hammer Video"Season 1, Episode 11
In the midst of Hammer-mania, In Living Color poked fun at the megastar with a parody of the music video to his Rick James-sampling classic, "Can't Touch This." Tommy Davidson plays MC Hammer, donning the rapper's signature parachute pants and hilariously updating the song's lyrics: "Hey Hammer, do you really have a weenie?/With pants like that, you look like a genie."
Queen Latifah and Flavor Flav PerformanceSeason 2, Episode 1
After making its love for hip-hop known throughout the first season, the In Living Color nucleus began incorporating live performances in the follow-up season. Queen Latifah was the first artist tapped, joined by Public Enemy member Flavor Flav as she performed "Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children," the De La Soul-assisted cut from her 1989 album, All Hail the Queen.
"Luther Campbell Writes a Clean Song"Season 2, Episode 2
David Alan Grier dons a pair of shades and a stocking cap as he portrays Miami rap godfather Uncle Luke, playing on Luke and 2 Live Crew's run-ins with the law due to their sexual charged and profanity-laced lyrics. The skit—which depicted Luke penning a PG-rated song—proved that while the show's central purpose was comedy, it also showed an awareness of high-profile matters affecting hip-hop.
3rd Bass PerformanceSeason 2, Episode 9
3rd Bass made a standout appearance during the second season of In Living Color, performing the single "Product of the Environment," from the crew's 1990 debut, The Cactus Revisited.
"Vanilla Ice - White White Baby"Season 2, Episode 15
Jim Carrey would become one of In Living Color's more accomplished cast members after departing from the show, but his rawest material is found here. His rendition of Vanilla Ice's smash hit "Ice Ice Baby" is as laughable as the White rapper's hip-hop legacy.
Leaders of the New School PerformanceSeason 2, Episode 16
In the first of two appearances on In Living Color—one of a handful of rap acts to receive that honor—Leaders of the New School performed "Case of the P.T.A.," the lead-single from their debut album, A Future Without a Past...
Public Enemy and Ice Cube PerformanceSeason 2, Episode 22
Dubbed "the premier rap group of rap" by host and creator Keenan Ivory Wayans, Public Enemy bum rushed the In Living Color stage during the show's breakout second season. Joined by Ice Cube, Chuck D's crew performed favorites like "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Fight The Power," putting on one of the show's most memorable sets.
"LL Cool JJ — Mama's Gonna Kick Me Out"Season 3, Episode 4
Shawn Wayans puts his own spin on LL Cool J's comeback hit, "Mama Said Knock You Out," by assuming the role of JJ of Good Times fame and unleashing the song "Mama's Gonna Kick Me Out." This piece of comedic gold helped push Shawn into a bigger role on the show.
A Tribe Called Quest PerformanceSeason 3, Episode 14
Fresh off the release of their breakout sophomore album, Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest appeared on In Living Color to perform the fan-favorite "Check the Rhime." Introduced by former Fly Girl-turned-international superstar Jennifer Lopez, A Tribe Called Quest ripped down the stage with a lively performance that resonated with the crowd , as well as the culture.
Gang Starr PerformanceSeason 4, Episode 3
Being that In Living Color was the sure shot during it's dominant run, it was only right that Gang Starr and Nice & Smooth appear on the show to perform their classic single "DWYCK." Introduced by Rosie Perez, the three MCs rock the stage while DJ Premier holds down wheels of steel in yet another example of collaborative Black star power on the In Living Color stage.
"Trail Mix-a-Lot" in "Baby Got Snacks"Season 4, Episode 5
Jamie Foxx quickly became one of the more popular comics on In Living Color after being being introduced in season three. As a permanent cast member the following season, Foxx parodied Sir Mix-A-Lot's seismic hit "Baby Got Back," showing love to big girls with "Baby Got Snacks."
Arrested Development PerformanceSeason 4, Episode 17
Just weeks ahead of becoming the first rap act to win Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards, Arrested Development appeared on In Living Color to deliver a performance of their feel-good tune "Mr. Wendal."
"Undigable Hosts"Season 4, Episode 27
Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh moonlight as Arsenio Hall, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jay Leno, a.k.a. the Undigable Hosts. Remixing Digable Planets' 1992 single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," In Living Color poked fun at its late-night counterparts in grand fashion.
"Russell Simmons' Def Strawberry Jam"Season 5, Episode 1
Tommy Davidson portrays rap mogul Russell Simmons in the skit "Def Strawberry Jam," from In Living Color's fifth season. However, if the show were still around today, something tells us that Russell may have gotten it a little worse, considering the allegations that are currently surrounding him.
"Ace and Main Man" Meet TupacSeason 5, Episode 3
Ace and Main Man, played by Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson, were among the more popular characters from the latter seasons of In Living Color. One of their more colorful sketches includes an appearance by the late rap legend 2Pac, who oozes with charisma in this relatively short spot, yet another testament to his star power.
"Unpoetic Justice"Season 5, Episode 4
In another 2Pac-related spoof from In Living Color's fifth and final season, the cast makes light of the 1993 flick Poetic Justice, starring Pac and R&B star Janet Jackson. With veteran cast members T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh and Jamie Foxx playing the two music stars, Unpoetic Justice further shows In Living Color's ties to hip-hop culture.
"Ugly Wanda and Her Uglier Sister"Season 5, Episode 16
Jamie Foxx is joined by legendary rapper and hip-hop figure Biz Markie in "Ugly Wanda and Her Uglier Sister," one of the most In Living Color's most outrageous skits in. Wanda, Foxx's beloved character that debuted in the show's third season, attempts to play matchmaker, with Biz Markie assuming the role of her unattractive sister. The worlds of comedy and hip-hop merged once again, a mash-up that perhaps best embodies the legacy of this classic television show.