15 Best ‘In Living Color’ Performances
Heading into the 90s, hip-hop and urban culture was on the verge of a new frontier.
With the music, fashion, and lingo bred by hip-hop beginning to infiltrate pop culture, new cultural institutions began to emerge, one of them being the legendary comedy sketch show In Living Color.
Created by actor, comedian, and filmmaker Keenen Ivory Wayans, In Living Color would revolutionize the world of sketch comedy by showcasing the marriage between comedy and hip-hop during the show's five-season run.
Debuting on April 15, 1990, In Living Color quickly became one of the hottest shows on television in large part due to its cast of talent, which included an unknown Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, and a host of other stars that would become legends within the comedy world.
However, in addition to the humorous antics and characters associated with the show, one aspect that drew viewers to In Living Color was its implementation of guest performers, which began during its second season.
Beginning with Queen Latifah, the show's first official rap act to rock the crowd, In Living Color would welcome a diverse cast of the genre's biggest names. Among those that would appear on the show were 3rd Bass, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte and other premier artists, helping make In Living Color a hotbed for hip-hop and further introducing the culture to middle America by bringing it into prime-time.
We've compiled a list of 15 of the hottest live performances in In Living Color history in celebration of the show's ties to hip-hop.
The first rap act to ever appear on the In Living Color stage was Queen Latifah, who performed her international hit, "Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children," from her debut album, All Hail the Queen. Although De La Soul appears on the official version, Queen Latifah was joined by Flavor Flav instead, who took on hype-man duties while her highness did her thing in grand fashion.
Leaders of the New School caught a big look when they were invited to perform their debut single, "Case of the P.T.A.," live. One of the first acts to hit the In Living Color stage without an album to their name, Leaders of the New School would become one of the show's more beloved guest performers.
Fresh off his East Coast excursion, Ice Cube joined Public Enemy onstage during the group's 1991 appearance on In Living Color. Proving their staying power and status as one of the preeminent acts in hip-hop, PE opted to perform "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "Fight the Power," both of which were released in 1989, prior to their third studio album, Fear of a Black Planet, which dropped in 1990.
After unleashing Ain't a Damn Thing Changed, their high-powered sophomore album, in 1991, Nice & Smooth graced the In Living Color stage for a performance of their single "Hip-Hop Junkies," a catchy selection as welcome in the clubs as it was in the streets.
Weeks after the release of their 19 Naughty III album in February 1993, New Jersey trio Naughty by Nature performed their anthem "Hip Hop Hooray." The song was Naughty's second top 10 hit, and remains one of hip-hop's most defining anthems.
Redman performed "Blow Your Mind," the lead-single from his 1992 debut, Whut? Thee Album, which would earn him his first gold plaque and help launch his career as one of hip-hop's most beloved lyricists.
Eric B. & Rakim appeared on In Living Color during the show's third season, performing their hit single "Juice (Know The Ledge)," from the soundtrack to the 1992 film Juice, which starred Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps. The performance would be one of the duo's last as a unit, as they would disband after the release of their fourth and final studio album, Don't Sweat the Technique.
"The Choice Is Yours," the second single released from Native Tongues affiliates Black Sheep's 1991 debut, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, was one of the hottest records of its time. The braintrust behind In Living Color obviously felt the same, which can account for their appearance during the show's third season. That performance has gone down as one of the more electric in its history.
Two days before the release of their highly-anticipated debut album, Totally Krossed Out, pre-teen phenoms Kriss Kross performed their smash, chart-topping single "Jump" to close out a March 1992 episode of In Living Color.
Gang Starr and Nice & Smooth were responsible for one of the more lively sets in In Living Color history with their performance of their hit collaboration, "DWYCK," which would later appear on Gang Starr's 1994 release, Hard to Earn.
Following his departure from Brand Nubian, Grand Puba set the In Living Color stage on fire with a performance of his No. 1 rap hit "360 Degrees (What Goes Around)," off of his solo debut, Reel to Reel.
The Pharcyde slid through In Living Color in 1993 to deliver a charged performance of "Passin' Me By," the group's breakout single from the Cali group's debut album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde.
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul blessed the In Living Color crowd with a live performance of "Reminisce," the third single released from her multi-platinum debut album, What's the 411? further solidifying her arrival as one of the most dynamic talents in music.
Prior to releasing their debut album, Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), Digable Planets was invited on In Living Color to perform their hit single, ""Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)." The song, which catapulted the relative unknowns into the mainstream, would later win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Oakland natives, Souls of Mischief, performed their hit single "93 'til Infinity" during an appearance on In Living Color a year after the release of the group's debut album.
Heavy D & The Boyz were responsible for one of the more explosive entrances in In Living Color history when they opened the show with a live-rendition of the opening theme, which the Mt. Vernon natives created themselves. Among the most memorable theme songs of the '90s, the In Living Color theme remains timeless and is another reminder of the late rap legend's impact on hip-hop culture.