Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more… and perhaps (hopefully) for the last time. I’m back with some 90s entries into this walk of shame I call Uncomfortable Rapping, Part 3.
First we hit my senior year in high school for this commercial I happily do not remember. Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie came out about a decade past my prime Barbie buying days, but right in peak of White People stealing from RUN DMC. Look at Barbie’s outfit, oh lord in heaven.
Good points here? At least these girls seem to be doing the actual “rapping,” and are not lip syncing someone else. Also, one of the three girls is a girl of color, which, is that good? I’m not the right arbiter here, but tokenism is a very real thing. I will say, I’d wear that look now, though.
Also, I maintain that Barbie’s “boombox” does NOT play a “real rappin’ sound.” But you be the judge.
So this is an early 90s PSA that aired during the FOX Kids programming block on the nascent Fox Network, probably right around the time that The Simpsons, Married with Children, and Living Single were huge. Speaking of Living Single…and Martin and In Living Color… it’s important to note that FOX really built its fortune on its early black audiences, abandoning them as soon as it felt it could hustle in a big enough white male audience. I’m very much simplifying that, so start here for more on this important context.
Now then, knowing that history, this PSA is an interesting mix of actual good rapping -specifically from the girl who first appears at the opening, enjoying the scratching that is assuredly not really being done by that Seth Green looking kid – and a cringey feeling of pandering. For instance, note how centered the white girl is, and how poorly she raps. It’s unsettling, when there is an obvious talent right next to her, stealing the show.
But it’s not the most offensive in the list, by far.
Instead, most offensive might be this 1993 Pringles commercial. On a quick watch, it’s just kind of dumb. It’s trying to hit some kind of De La Soul vibe maybe, and truly failing. But watch more closely and, yep, see it now? THAT WHITE GUY IS LIP SYNCING. More importantly he is mouthing someone else’s rap. I am 99.9% certain of this, and oooh, it’s just bad. Also, the only person of color allowed in this video is a lovely women who is given a total of maybe three seconds of screen time, in which she holds up two Pringles as if she has a duck bill. Yes. That happened.
Still firmly in the naughty 90s here, and this Honeycomb commercial is…fine? It’s sort of a cute rap, no white people are lip syncing it, and the bulk of the commercial is populated with a decently diverse crowd of kids.
I also really love Honeycomb, or at least did when I was a kid, so maybe I’m giving it a pass? It’s still a bunch of probably white people using rap to sell stuff, so it’s on the list.
This is an early very late 80s or early 90s commercial for a dolly called Sypdor which seems to be from the He-Man line. Come on. You know it’s a doll. I just watch this and, what? What is happening?
some guys GOT IT some guys DON’T the voiceover rap asserts. So yes, let’s slather prepubescent boys with male inadequacy along with the drive for conspicuous consumption before they can even hold down a job. And let’s do it with rap!
Though it carries this messy message along with the same original sin of every entry in this series, I can’t stop giggling. What even is happening? That kid just did a Spydor dance with his own shadow!? In a goofy rap commercial tasting, it pairs well with the Honeycomb one above in terms of just being a bit looney. And you have to love how the rapper fits the following lines into his flow:
Spydor’s new / From the Masters of the U / There’s assembly to do / You need batteries too…
…Other action figures sold sep-rate-ly / From Mattel / GOT IT?
Oh, I got it.
Next, we step back to 1989’s Little Monsters, a movie I’ve never seen, but that seems to star late 80s “It Boy” Fred Savage. Mercifully, he does not rap. This is a really typical entry in commercial rapping, I think, in that we have a cartoonish voice taking the lead here, and it’s a very silly sort of presentation. No one is taking this seriously, which makes it more palatable. There is also no gestures toward pretending this is anything other than culturally white, and doing anything other than selling something – in this case, the amazingly ridiculous sounding Little Monsters 900 number.
900 numbers, man. Admitting I really wanted to call 1-900-490-CREEP really dates me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or if you do and want to head down a rabbit hole, check out this fascinating piece on The Rise and Fall of the 900 Number.
And speaking of phone calls… I saved the best for last.
Remember answering machines with tapes? You might not! I barely do. Yet they did exist, and in the last few seconds of this commercial, their glory is restored, if only for a moment by the legendary WAIT FOR THE BEEP! This is one commercial endeavor which unashamedly uses rap to sell its innately goofy product that somehow seems somewhat…okay. It depends on how much they paid those guys. …I bet they got no royalties…
Well, nothing is unproblematic. Enjoy, nonetheless.