The Unlikely History of Rap's Oldest Cliché

Categories: Hip-Hop

But when analyzing a lot of these classic hip-hop routines, one has to be aware of the re-contextualization of a lot of popular music, including commercial jingles. One of which may be, even if subconsciously, the genesis of this particular cliche. The 1940s Chiquita Banana song, while predating hip-hop as a whole by about 30 years, is perhaps the first time the couplet was heard. Chiquita commercials featured different variations of the line, like the video above where a singing anthropomorphic banana seduces the banana-hungry public with "I'm Chiquita Banana and I've come to say/ Bananas have to ripen in a certain way." Perhaps it's the cultural touchstone of this earworm that inspired the Barney Rubble hip-hop reconfiguration "I'm the Master Rapper and I'm here to say/I love Fruity Pebbles in a major way."

It was in all likelihood not actual MCs writing these rap jingles in the mid-to-late '80s, but odds are their ubiquity was a lot of mainstream America's first, and perhaps only, exposure to hip-hop. It was a memorable reference point that commercial-heavy broadcast industry could drill repeatedly into viewers' heads.

But this perpetual repetition may have come from two respected names in the hip-hop culture as well. We spoke to executive director of the Hip-Hop Culture Center and hip-hop historian Curtis Sherrod, he says a reason for that introductory scheme's popularity might come from a daily recurring bit on Yo! MTV Raps hosts Ed Lover and Doctor Dre's Hot 97 morning show. "It was in effect before then, but those guys took elements from [the routine] and piggybacked off it. The audience would call in, and put their name or their tag in there, and they would create these situations every morning. [A caller] would be 'My name is _______ and I'm here to say dadadaaddada in a major way,' and it would always end, 'That sounds cool and that may be, but dadadada,' and they would do that every day. When driving to work, I'd know I was on time when that segment came on and I was going over the George Washington Bridge."

But Sherrod points out that the history of the routine goes much deeper than just its commercial presence. "MCs have always wanted to have superpowers, that's the influence of comic books and such. You've always wanted to be able to introduce yourself. The only reason MCs came about was to talk about the DJ, say where you were from, what you represented and what your superpower was. That [routine] was a relevant foundational part of hip-hop."

"You had to come up with a way to say your name," continues Sherrod. "If you weren't saying your name, why were you doing it?"


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