7 times "The Wayans Bros." show connected with hip hop and R&B
Twenty years since the airing of the final episode, REVOLT looks back at seven ways that “The Wayans Bros.” connected with the worlds of hip hop and R&B. Take a look!
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The ’90s was a glorious time for urban America; as a number of sitcoms reflecting the lifestyle, culture and values of young black Americans were making an impact on pop culture. One television show that covered this trifecta was “The Wayans Bros.” starring actors/comedians Shawn and Marlon Wayans, which was set in the siblings’ hometown of New York City. Assuming the roles of two working-class brothers with dreams of pursuing their passions and transitioning from their day jobs, Shawn and Marlon’s comedic chemistry with cast-mates John Witherspoon (John “Pops” Williams) and Anna Maria Horsford (Deirdre “Dee” Baxter”) made the show extremely popular.
However, in addition to the humor, “The Wayans Bros.” also struck a chord due to its embrace of the time’s sound — particularly rap music and R&B — with the Wayans’ inviting a slew of star acts from both genres. In addition to these cameos, the brothers also presented themselves as products of hip hop, embracing the fashion and slang in a way that was wholly authentic.
Twenty years since the airing of the final episode, REVOLT looks back at seven ways that “The Wayans Bros.” connected with the worlds of hip hop and R&B.
1. The Theme Song
The first episode of “The Wayans Bros.” put viewers on notice that hip hop culture would be a prominent part of the show, as Shawn and Marlon handpicked the instrumental for A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 single “Electric Relaxation” as its opening theme song. Following the second season, “Electric Relaxation” was replaced by a quick-strike beat until a track co-produced by the Wayans brothers and Omar Epps soundtracked the intro for the series’ remaining two series. These nods to the tandem’s roots as hip hop fans, however subtle, were prevalent in making it one of the more popular TV shows of the culture.
2. Busta Rhymes’ Random Act of Kindness
In the show’s fourth season, Shawn and Marlon get in hot water when they’re caught scalping tickets to a Busta Rhymes concert, putting them on the Grammy-nominated rapper’s bad side. However, the encounter ultimately culminates with Busta doing the charitable act of putting on a live performance to save Dee’s church from foreclosure. The first rapper to make his way on to “The Wayans Bros.” set, Busta — who cemented himself as a superstar with his platinum certified sophomore album When Disaster Strikes… — would go on to have another breakout year, unleashing his E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): the Final World Front, at the tail-end of 1998.
3. Keith Sweat’s Guest Appearance
In May 1997, R&B star Keith Sweat became the first musical artist to make a cameo on the show, appearing in the season 3 episode when Marlon’s loyalty to Shawn is tested by the opportunity to accompany Sweat on a nationwide tour. At the time, Sweat was in the midst of the peak years of his career, coming off the release of 1996’s Keith Sweat, his most successful album to date. He would go on to form the group LSG with fellow R&B heartthrobs Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill later that year.
4. En Vogue’s Takeover of The Neidermeyer Building
The Neidermeyer building and Pop’s Diner get bombarded by the paparazzi during the fourth season of the show after Marlon spreads a salacious rumor involving himself and R&B group En Vogue. The younger Wayans brother eventually makes amends with the trio, who end the episode with a performance of their EV3 single “Let It Flow.” Released in the months preceding this appearance, EV would be the group’s last album before going on a lengthy hiatus, returning with their fourth studio album, Masterpiece Theatre, in 2002.
5. Missy Elliott’s Backstage Encounter
During the show’s fifth season, Dee connects with a petty thief she encountered in her past, who just so happens to be rap star Missy Elliott, and Elliott gifts the security guard with a pair of free tickets to her concert. Shawn accompanies Dee and a wild drunken night leads to the assumption that the two friends slept together. Marlon is ultimately revealed as the culprit behind staging the compromising situation, but Elliott and protege Nicole Wray’s performance of their hit single “Make It Hot” was intoxicating enough to make Shawn and Dee imagine the worst.
6. Paula Abdul as “Sasha”
Art imitates life in the final season of “The Wayans Bros.” when Paula Abdul assumes the role of a world famous singer, who propositions Shawn to father her child. The offer is a tempting one, but Shawn opts to decline due to being morally conflicted over the thought of not being involved in his child’s life. Abdul, who released commercially successful studio albums and multiple chart-topping singles throughout her career, went on to serve as a judge on “American Idol.” On this show, she helped introduce R&B stars like Fantasia, Ruben Studdard and Jordin Sparks to the public.
7. Hip Hop Fashion
Throughout the show’s five season run, “The Wayans Bros.” played a pivotal role in putting a spotlight on urban fashion and street-wear. Donning clothing from brands like Mecca, Karl Kani, Fubu, Enyce and more; Marlon and Shawn kept it unapologetically hip hop and helped expose our fresh to middle America.
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