Thank fuck TheMeaningOfDope announced it'll be returning from its extended sabbatical soon, as we've spent precious time we could be watching old wrestlin' videos on Youtube being eaten into by having to scour it for tv performances by rappers ourselves.
Tribe and L.O.N.S's performance of Scenario is probably the most famous Arsenio appearance as it marked Busta down as a future star with a predilection for stupid fucking hats, but my favourite performances are the NWA related ones. Since the Straight Outta Compton line-up and Cube solo never appeared we start with :
West Coast Rap All-Stars - All In The Same Gang
Basically the west coast's Stop The Violence as organised by Davrosed-out founding Crip member Michael Concepcion, who was trying to broker the infamous peace-treaty between the Bloods and Crips at the time. Although it features the likes of Ice-T, King Tee, Digital Underground and MC Hammer, it's a who's-who? of the Ruthless Records roster in 1990 : JJ Fad, Michel'le, NWA, Eazy E, Above The Law (thankfully we were spared Tarrie B as this was a good 2 years before Eazy signed her), with Dre on the beat. Interestingly Dre and Ren were billed together as NWA and Eazy was billed as a solo artist on here. It seems almost inconceivable now that Dre was merely the Scott Hall to Ren's Kevin Nash of the post-Cube NWA, but Eazy was Hollywood Hogan status in them days. Continuing the n.W.o analogy to its strained conclusion, Jerry was Bischoff, while Yella was Virgil.
NWA - intervew and 100 Miles And Runnin'
Eazy's silent as a churchmouse in a straight jacket and Jsson mask with a Raiders beanie, Dre's as awkward in front of the camera as ever, Yella's just there twiddling with thumbs like every DJ does on tv, so Ren becomes the main mouthpiece for the group in the interview here, which is fair enough really since he became the best rapper in the group after Cube's departure. Seriously, dude fuckin' ripped joints like Real N*ggaz and originated the broomsticks-up-the-butt threats in rap which Beanie Sigel would use to excellent effect over a decade later . Anyway, the performance of 100 Miles And Runnin' itself is gimmick-free and, crucially, proves that west coast Gang$ta-rappers are the only people who've ever looked good in Chambray jackets. Knock it off, the rest of y'all.
Eazy E - interview and Real Compton G's
If you spent the duration of your first Arsenio interview in a straight jacket and hockey mask how can you top it? By doing the 2nd buck-nekkid bar a bathrobe, a pair of Locs and a Compton hat while sitting next to Krs One, obviously. Eazy sends some piercing zingers at Dre regarding Dre's studio gangstadom, Rimmel clad World Class Wrecking Crew past and royalty payment situation, but the highlight is the performance of Real Compton G's with Dresta & B.G. Knocc Out and Yella as the hypeman. It's suprising that such a motley bunch of potheads could deliver a flawless rendition of the clean version of Real Muthaphukkin' G's and, although clean versions of Gang$ta-Rap classics are a pet hate of mine, this is my favourite Arsenio performance. Dresta and B.G. Knocc Out also deliver a masterclass on how plaid shirts (Gotta be either Dickies or Pendleton) should be sported.
Snoop - freestyle
Like Cube, Dre never appeared on Arsenio as a solo artist, despite the fact he had at least 300 singles on Death Row, so we'll have to make do with the next best thing : Snoop in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey freestlying over a loosely funked-up version of The Message played by Arsenio's in-house band and mentioning Eazy by name. Don't think I've ever seen Arsenio as open as he gets when his band kick into the groove of The Message.
Snoop - Tha Shiznit
It's difficult to pick a favourite song from Doggy Style : Gin And Juice will forever be the anthem which is so universal it can even induce hysteria in white-trash birds, Lodi Dodi is simultaneously the finest Slick Rick tribute and cover version in the history of rap, For All My N*ggaz And Bitches, G'z And Hustlaz and Pump Pump are that Gusto from CB4 type hardcore shit, but Tha Shiznit is the one which has gotten the most rewinds over the years. So, it's particularly annoying that Arsenio's trademark effects have left this performance looking like a Fritz Lang flick. Black & White was the perfect medium for movies such as Metropolis, M, Scarlet Street and The Big Heat; Snoop tv performances with Tha Dogg Pound on hypeman duties? Eh, not so much.