Growing up, you either heard new artists on the radio, you found out from your local record store what was hot, or you saw them on television shows. Other than older siblings or friends, there weren’t many other ways to discover music (lest your parents had a banging record collection that you raided), but I’m speaking on music at the time. I was forever staying up late watching Night Flight and Radio 1990, or rushing home after school to watch Yo! MTV Raps (and proudly wore my shirt I ordered from MTV) just to catch a glimpse of the Diabolical Biz Markie, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, or any of the other great Hip Hop acts of the time. yeah, I could watch Soul Train on the weekends, which gave me my fix from Uncle Don Cornelius, but I needed to hear the newest shit, and there weren’t many outlets for that. One show that did that for me and changed the game as far as late night music performances went was Arsenio Hall. A passable comic and host at best, he was given his show after he filled in for Joan Rivers when she got canned on Fox. Forget about his foray into rapping, Chunky A was more publicity than substance, and I’m hoping he doesn’t go that route again. Everyone knew he was trying so hard to be like Eddie Murphy, but he was just Arsenio. Call him a fake, call him a phoney, call him a wanna be. The fact is, Arsenio Hall took chances and when I say chances, I don’t just mean in comedy. He was ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. The man was saying dog way before Randy Jackson said “It’s just all right for me dog” on American Idol, and had multi-cultural audiences fist pumping to the grooves of Tribe, De La, Heavy D, Eazy E and more for the length of his first run in late night before anyone else. Yeah Run DMC and the Beasties and others got on The Train, but Arsenio was really the guy who really set the bar for quality performances on late night tv. Hosts like Henry Rollins, Carson Daly, Jimmy Kimmel, and the hippest late night show at the moment, Jimmy Fallon, have a lot of thanks to give to Arsenio. He took chances with performers, he highlighted African American music, and despite what you think of the man, he needs the credit he deserves in the music area. That was some late 80’s, early 90’s innovation. He’s brought back that innovation once again. The show is back in syndication. he’s a little older (19 years to be exact), and ready to tackle tv again. The posse is back and it seems like he’s picked up where he left off by having great musical guests on. This week he had none other than Nas, who performed “You Wouldn’t Understand” with a live band. On a side note, does Nas even age? Dude still looks like a young buck. It’s good to see some more variety in late night (even if he’s competing with local news here in NYC with his time slot). The game has definitely changed, and of course Fallon will have every new talent on to perform with The Roots, but if it wasn’t for Arsenio, we’d still have some boring ass, run of the mill Pop music guests floating around each late night television show. So, as I put my fist in the air, (more like Jesse Owens style than Dog Pound style), I send out a salute to Arsenio and his new show. He’s set the bar high with Nasir Jones, we will have to see what else he can do in the upcoming episodes. As long as we don’t see Chunky A, I’m ok.
Check out the Nas performance here.
ATCQ and LONS perform “Scenario”
Eazy E Interview and Performance
Beatie Boys perform “So Whatcha’ Want” with Hurricane and Cypress Hill