Video Vault: 10 Classic In Living Color Performances

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Last month, we compiled a list of 10 Classic Showtime at the Apollo Performances for our Video Vault series, highlighting vintage live clips by Run-D.M.C., Biz Markie, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jodeci featuring Ghostface and Raekwon, and more. To follow it up, and stick with the theme of historic live hop-hop television moments, we went digging in the digital crates to find 10 Classic In Living Color Performances.

In Living Color, the hilarious sketch comedy show led by Keenan Ivory Wayans that gave birth to A-list stars such as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Lopez (not to mention Keenan’s various siblings who went on to enjoy huge success), ended many of its episodes during its five season run on FOX in the early ’90s with live rap performances. And unlike Showtime at the Apollo, which didn’t start until after midnight, these performances aired during a prime-time slot, giving rap music a consistent look that it really had never gotten before on a major network. Watch below as everyone from Public Enemy to Grand Puba to Gang Starr to Redman grace the In Living Color floor to show and prove their skills to pay the bills for our latest Video Vault feature.

1. Public Enemy ft. Ice Cube “Fight the Power”

Keenan Ivory Wayans described Public Enemy in the introduction to their performance as rap’s “premiere group,” and stated that “the boldness in their lyrics, [and] the level of consciousness they have brought to their music has totally redefined the level of excellence of rap.” To add to the classic status of this performance, PE had their West coast homie Ice Cube—who had been working with their production team the Bomb Squad at the time on his own solo material and also linked up with Chuck D and Flavor Flav on “Burn Hollywood Burn”—to usher them in after Wayans’ intro. Crazy.

Flav also made an appearance with the late, great Heavy D for a performance of “You Can’t See What I Can See,” which you can check out above as a bonus. If you look closely, you’ll see 2Pac also providing vocal support.

2. Eric B. & Rakim “Juice (Know the Ledge)”

The God Rakim made an appearance on In Living Color with his DJ Eric B. to perform their cut from the Juice soundtrack, and Ra broke it down with his smooth, swift delivery, while the cast and crew danced and bopped along in the background. This is legendary.

3. Black Sheep “The Choice is Yours”

“The Choice is Yours” has lived well beyond the ‘90s and into the 21st Century, thanks to a certain Kia commercial, among other choice placements. It’s a timeless hip-hop jam, and Dres and Mista Lawnge do it justice on the In Living Color floor.

Also, check out this bonus video of Dres joining Showbiz and A.G. for their collabo “Bounce Ta This.” Yes, this really happened on national television, hip-hop fans. Hallelujah!

4. Pete Rock & CL Smooth “Straighten it Out”

Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon rap duo Pete Rock & CL Smooth crushed bootleggers coast-to-coast with this performance of their Mecca and the Soul Brother single “Straighten It Out.” Is CL Smooth the most underrated MC of all-time? Maybe so, maybe no, but this clip is further proof that his mic skills should never be slept on. Shouts to the Chocolate Boy Wonder too, hopping from behind the turntables to represent.

5. Grand Puba “360 (What Goes Around)”

Grand Puba broke off from Brand Nubian after their first album, and scored an instant rap hit with his solo single “360 (What Goes Around).” It was danceable, lyrical, street, and fun, all at the same damn time. And on In Living Color, J-Lo did the honors of introducing the freshly dressed Now Rule rapper to the floor to kick his Godbody lingo. Check the resume, and the outfit archetitecture.

6. Gang Starr ft. Nice & Smooth “DWYCK”

Rap groups Gang Starr and Nice & Smooth joined forces for their banging collabo “Dwyck,” and with the help of an intro by Rosie Perez, they gave the In Living Color viewers a turned up performance of it, equipped with live scratches on the chorus by DJ Premier. Yup, this ain’t no TV track instrumental, this is real deal hip-hop, on prime-time television, ya heard? Suave.

As a related bonus, peep Guru doing his Jazzmatazz thing with N’Dea Davenport during this slick performance of “Trust Me.”

7. KRS-One “The Bridge is Over”

During a recent Juan Epstein podcast, Keenan Ivory Wayans told the story of how he tapped Bronx MC KRS-One to do the song “Jack of Spades” for his movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Well, KRS paid Wayans some additional love by popping up at the end of an In Living Color episode to perform his Boogie Down Productions classic “The Bridge is Over.” Check the intro by Keenan himself, and props on the fresh Giants parka, Kris!

8. Redman “Blow Your Mind”

Reggie Noble made an appearance during the 4th season of In Living Color, and did a bomb performance of his Whut? Thee Album single “Blow Your Mind.” This was just a glimpse of the cosmic slop he would serve up in the years to follow. Nicely done, Funk Doc.

9. The Pharcyde “Passin’ Me By”

“Now I’m my younger days I used to sport a….” California’s four-man rap crew The Pharcyde came correct on their debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde with the undeniable single “Passin’ Me By,” and though their performance got cut pretty early by the credits, they still got the chance to share it with the In Living Color viewers for a couple minutes. Peep Jamie Foxx on the intro, and Fat Lip going in when the beat drops with the dance moves! Fun stuff.

10. Souls of Mischief “93 ’til Infinity”

Another four-man California crew, Souls of Mischief, got a chance to shine on In Living Color, performing their timeless classic “93 ‘til Infinity.” It might be twenty years later, but as we’ve stated before, this song is infinitely fire. And though it’s another short performance, Hieroglyphics’ own was in the building repping Oakland, and repping it well.

*Bonus* A Tribe Called Quest “Check the Rhime”

If you cop the In Living Color Season 3 DVD hoping to see this “Check the Rhime” performance by A Tribe Called Quest, well, you’re gonna be assed out (we hear it’s because of sample clearance issues). But thanks to The Meaning of Dope, the footage can be made available here as a bonus clip. That’s right, we couldn’t even find it on YouTube, it’s that #rare. Watch above as Q-Tip and Phife Dawg do the in and out thing. Always on point.

Previously: Video Vault: 10 Classic Showtime at the Apollo Performances |  Video Vault: The Top 20 Rap Videos of 1993 |  Video Vault: 5 Classic Wake Up Show Freestyles |Video Vault: 5 Pre-Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z Videos | Video Vault: 7 Classic Smack DVD Clips