10 Best ‘Arsenio Hall Show’ Hip-Hop and R&B Performances
‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ returned to television last week and many have been waiting for its comeback since it was announced last year. It isn’t just for nostalgic purposes either; Nas (who appeared on the reincarnation this week) certainly wouldn’t drop his “Bring back Arsenio” line in his poetic ‘Queens Get the Money’ if that was the case.
People wanted Arsenio back on late nights because it truly was a great show. You had the famous introductions, the rowdy “dog pound” and the off-the-cuff interviews, which sometimes led to some great (and uncomfortable) moments like Ike Turner’s comments on hitting Tina Turner and Eazy-E dissing former N.W.A. member Dr. Dre.
More importantly, ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ served as the underrepresented urban voice for late nights. It helped that the show’s run, from 1989-94, ran during hip-hop’s golden age and the peak years of “the sound of the ’90s” New Jack Swing genre.
That lead to another signature aspect of Arsenio Hall’s talk show: the performances. Artists from Tupac Shakur to A Tribe Called Quest made classic appearances on the show, and there were plenty of other noteworthy performances as well.
TheDrop.FM dug up the 10 Best ‘Arsenio Hall Show’ Hip-Hop and R&B Performances. Enjoy and reminisce.
‘New Jack Swing'
Although it was journalist Barry Michael Cooper who gave the genre its name in his famed 1987 Village Voice piece, the late ‘80s-‘90s New Jack Swing era didn’t get a formal televised introduction until Arsenio Hall did so on his show. The host characterized it as the “sound of the ’90s” before introducing Wreckx-N-Effect, who performed the aptly titled ‘New Jack Swing.’ The performance, as well as a few other acts from the genre, made the ‘Arsenio Hall Show’ more closely associated with the new movement.
‘Teddy’s Jam 2'
If Hall was going to formally introduce the New Jack Swing genre to his show, it’d make sense to feature the originator of the style himself. Teddy Riley is considered the mastermind behind the new urban phenomenon, and he stopped by the show with Guy, his group at the time. Sadly, those loud, purple outfits have not dated well.
One of the signature characteristics of Hall’s show was Burton Richardson’s prolonged enunciation of his name (“Arsenioooo”) during the introductions. One of these introductions became particularly memorable as it segued into a surprise Bill Clinton saxophone solo of Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’ It’s not only one of the show’s best moments, but also a crucial moment for the then-presidential candidate as he increased his appeal to the minority audience with his appearance.
‘Me, Myself, and I'
The key moment here happens when Hall introduces De La Soul by saying he likes to call them "the hippies of hip-hop." It’s a label the group had been trying to distance themselves from ever since dropping their seminal, but surreal debut, ‘3 Feet High and Rising.’ Although it was an unintentional insult, De La Soul still performed in front of an excited crowd. The trio would later reference the incident on 1991’s ‘Pass the Plugs’: “Arsenio dissed us / But the crowd kept clapping.”
Arsenio had the fortune of hosting a show during what is considered by many to be the golden age of hip-hop, and he had the pleasure of having A Tribe Called Quest -- one of the era’s greatest acts -- perform on the show. The group’s groundbreaking ‘The Low End Theory’ had recently came out, so the audience was understandably excited when A Tribe Called Quest decided to perform the album-ending ‘Scenario,’ which featured a young Busta Rhymes and the Leaders of the New School. There couldn’t possibly have been any doubts that this was going to be a great performance, especially with Phife Dawg performing his opening verse wearing a Team USA jersey and Busta cavorting with his ‘Cat in the Hat’ headwear.
Most of the fashion choices and dances moves of New Jack Swing’s heyday didn’t survive. The one thing that the era left us with that will probably survive for as long as club-hoppers and ’90s babies exist is Bell Biv Devoe’s bombastic classic, ‘Poison.’ The group’s performance on the show is funny in retrospect because the song is the only thing that survived out of that scene, but the loud outfits and dances are still fun to watch.
‘Vision of Love'
Everyone that knows Mariah Carey is familiar with her platinum-selling singles, her on-air disputes with Nicki Minaj during ‘American Idol’ and her marriage with Nick Cannon. It also must be known how rare and talented of a singer she is, as she’s able to travel five octaves. That’s not amazing for just music geeks; her wide range sounds beautiful to the listeners. That fact has been known for decades though. Imagine the shock and awe when Carey showcased her talent for the first time on television on the ‘Arsenio Hall Show.'
‘Real Muthaf---ing G'z'
Eazy-E epitomized two big tropes about gangster rap in his 'Arsenio Hall Show' appearance: belligerence and not giving a you know what. Eazy-E strolled into the interview wearing just a robe and talked about studio gangsters (i.e. Dr. Dre). Hall did mention that he'd rather stress unity on the show, but Eazy-E's performance showed he wasn't at all interested in such goals. Studio gangsters beware, Eazy E shouted them out in his militant performance.
‘I Get Around'
Tupac got his start when he was featured on Digital Underground’s ‘This Is an EP Release,’ but this time, the West Coast MC was the star. The legend performed ‘I Get Around’ for one of the most memorable performances on the show. He had a moment that teetered more toward infamy during his next appearance on the show, when he made some odd comments about ‘Poetic Justice’ co-star Janet Jackson in an interview. One highlight was when he said he enjoyed kissing Jackson while shooting scenes even though her at-the-time boyfriend was looking.
The final episode of the legendary talk show is notable for having the longest stretch of the introductory “Arsenioooo” in the show’s history. The other notable moment: the showstopping Hip-Hop All-Star performance. Has there ever been a better musical send off to anything? Look at the line up: A Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte, an in his prime Treach, Gang Starr, KRS-One and many more. No one argued Hall wasn't deserving, with all his show has done for urban culture.