Know Your History – Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. I’m your host Chase March and we’ve got a great show for you tonight. I’m just going to jump into things. It might not sound like a show on the history of rap music and hip-hop culture right at the start, but bear with me and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

Married With Children was a very successful television series that ran for 11 seasons on Fox. The sitcom premiered in 1987 and was unlike anything else on television. It’s notable for a few reasons.

Number one, it was the first prime time series to run on the network that seemed like it was pretty much doomed to fail. At the time, there were three big networks and it was really iffy as to whether a new station could garner enough viewers to be sustainable.

Number two, the show deal with some pretty controversial topics. It was low-brow comedy and really stretched the limits of what cable television was able to do. Nowadays with speciality channels such as HBO, Showtime, FX, Space, and other such channels, it’s hard to remember a time where there were only a handful of options or channels available.

Number three, everyone knows this show. Everyone. Of all the sitcoms that have aired over the years, many of them are easily forgettable and fall of out popular culture references. Married with Children has been referenced in several rap songs.

These three reasons are enough to take another look at this groundbreaking sitcom but there is a hip-hop angle to it as well. Just bear with me a moment longer.

In Season 6 of the show, Al Bundy, the father character of the show has a dream that his son becomes a gangsta rapper. When he tells his son about the dream, Bud Bundy gets inspired and actually adopts the persona of Grandmaster B. He tries to get his family to call him by this new name. But it does invite mochery quite easily. His family constantly tease him about his rap persona on the show. They call him Ghostbuster B, Mixmaster, Grandma B, Bed Wetter B, Burgermeister, and Dustbuster among others.

David Faustino did a great job on the television show. He was perfect in the role. His character was the only one in the family who aspired and worked towards improving their situation in a any real way. He was able to be the butt of the joke and move on. He was a likeable character even though he was constantly teased and told he wouldn’t amount to anything.

It must be tough to be on a successful television series. People see you week in and week out and make all sorts of assumptions based on what they see on the screen. So, maybe it’s not so surprising when Faustino tried stepping out of the sitcom set and on to the rap stage that was teased about it in real life as well.

He adopted the rapper name of D’Lil and put out a song entitled “I Told Ya” in 1992. I remember being blown away by the video when I first saw it. I thought, “Woah, Bud Bundy is a rapper” but I gave it a chance.

In an interview Faustino did with Hip-Hop DX , he said that the writers of the series knew that he was really into hip-hop music and culture so they decided to write that into the show.

He said, “No one else was really feeling Hip Hop, yet. It wasn’t mainstream at all. So they all felt I was [weird]. ‘Cause I would bring Hip Hop cats around – people would come visit, from just different deejays and whoever – and they were like, ‘What’s this kid doing?’ They didn’t really understand it that much but they found a way to kind of poke fun at it and [Grandmaster B] was their attempt.”

David Faustino also explained in that article that he chose the rap posters that adorned the set in his fictional bedroom. Nas even commented that seeing his poster on Married With Children was really inspiring and that it was a sign that he had made it.

I can definitely understand that. Hip-Hop wasn’t in the mainstream as much as it is now. When the show started, hip-hop was seen as a new thing and as a fad. That is probably why it was poked fun at some much by the writers, but it was easy to see that Bud Bundy and the actor who played him were true fans.

D’Lil wasn’t well received by the hip-hop community though. I remember seeing the video on Much Music and, at the time, I thought it was decent. I actually went to the record store to pick it up but they had never heard of the record. I looked for it for a while and then gave up. The video fell out of rotation and I never heard anything else from David Faustino as a rapper. He is still involved in Hollywood and currently voices characters in animation.

D’Lil was the first actor turned rapper that I knew about. Maybe, he was a little before his time because I can think of one actor turned rapper who has been quite successful. Some people been call him the greatest rapper out right now.

That’s right, I am talking about Drake. He started his career as an actor in the popular television series Degrassi. Back then, he was simply Aubrey Graham and no one would have guessed that he would become a superstar rapper.

Just like David Faustino, Drake started his rap career while still in the middle of his stint on television. He began the series in 2001 and played the character of Jimmy Brookes for 139 episodes over the next eight years.

His character started pursuing a music career in the series and that translated to real life. In 2006, Aubrey Graham adopted the name of Drake and released a mixtape independently. He followed that up with several more independent releases and people started to take notice. He even managed to get play on BET, a feat that very few Canadian artists have ever done, and even more impressive is that he did so without any support from a record label.

Lil Wayne took him under his wing and the rest is history. He has won several music awards, struck critical acclaim, and sold a huge amount of records. Pretty impressive for someone who got his start on Canadian television.

Drake is a rarity though. There are very few actors who have managed to be sucessful in the rap world. It seems to work the other way around a lot easier. There are too many rappers turned actors to even mention, and some of them are very, very good. Ice Cube, Ice T, and the late great Tupac Shakur come to mind.

But this show is about actors-turned rappers. So, let’s turn our attention back to the small screen. Canada had been producing teenage drama series for years but the concept was starting to catch on south of the border as well.

One of the most successful teenage drama series on network television premiered on October 4th, 1990 and just like the first program mentioned today, it got its start on Fox. The show was set in a rich neighbourhood and even included its zip code in the title. That’s right, I am talking about Beverly Hills 90210.

When the series first hit the air, rap music was just starting to become a commercial phenomenon. It made sense that one of the characters in the show would start experimenting with the genre. In fact, the writers tailored the scripts to align with some of the actors hobbies and interests.

As such, Brian Austin Green, who played David Silver, started to deejay and eventually even rapped on the show.

He took that passion to the recording booth and dropped his middle name and an album in 1996. It was called One Stop Carnival and was produced by one of the members of the Pharcyde.

The lead single “You Send Me” was released by Brian Green in 1996. Back then, you would have know him better as David Silver from Beverly Hills 90210. I like that track. I’m surprised that it wasn’t more successful.

After all, Beverly Hills 90210 was one of the most popular shows on television at the time. Brian Austin Green had a bankable name and the album was produced by Slim Kid 3 of Pharcyde. Despite having this co-sign, Brian Green wasn’t able to capture the same amount of sucess on the radio as he was on television.

His television series was very successful and stayed on the air for ten years. It has even spawned spin-off series including Melrose Place and a new revamped series simply called 90210. It’s probably one of the reasons we have programs aimed specifically at the teenage market these days. The influence this program had cannot be overstated.

And while Brian Green’s album had an accesible sound, perhaps it was the high-pitched nasally flow that turned a few people off. Or maybe, it was because we were in the midst of hip-hop’s first Golden Age. There was so much great content dropping that year. This record probably got buried by the classics that came out around the same time. Or maybe it was just too commercial. What’s clear is that Brain Austin Green shoud stick to what he does best, acting. I really loved him in the Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’s a shame that that show got cancelled.

Why is it so hard for actors to make a successful transition to the rap game? Why are we, as listeners, movie viewers, and TV show fans, more accepting of rappers acting than we are of actors rapping? Who knows?

All I know is that there are a lot of actors who can sing. There are several who have managed to have a fairly successful singing career too. Selena Gomez. Bridgit Mendler, and Britney Spears all got there start on television and have sold crazy amounts of records and continue to do so. Yet, actors who rap fade into obscurity rather quickly.

I wonder if Drake had been on 90210 instead of Degrassi if he would have achieved as much success in the music industry as he did. He was relatively unknown as an actor when the buzz around him as a rapper started to build. Degrassi had a huge following but it has a pretty specific audience that is limited to mostly young Canadian viewers. 90210 on the other hand was the highest rated show on television for a period of time. Everyone knew of the show and the characters even if they didn’t watch it week in and week out.

Whatver the reason, it hasn’t stopped actors from stepping into the rap game. This next actor / rapper we are focusing on today has been part of the main cast of Community for the past five years now. He plays Troy Barnes on the NBC television series. And in the middle of the run of the series, he started a rap career. He signed to Glassnote records under the stage name of Childish Gambino.

It’s interesting to see what you can dig up when you start researching a topic. I didn’t think I’d be able to fill the entire thirty minutes with actors-turned-rappers but I guess I was wrong. I’m interested to see if Childish Gambino can make a name for himself in this rap game. I guess, only time will tell. He has some big shoes to follow though if he is going to make it work and, as we’ve seen, the track record is very good.

That being said, Donald Glover has been making moves in Hollywood for some time now. He was one of the writers for the hit show 30 Rock, he has done stand-up, sketch comedy, and starred in a few movies as well. He seems to have that kind of star-quality that will probably suit him well.

Looks like I’ve got time to play one more track. I’d like to play my favourite song from Amanda Diva. She got her start in 1993 in the film Cop and a Half alongside Burt Reynolds. She then landed on the small screen in the Nickelodean series My Brother and Me.

Beside acting, she is also a talented singer, rapper, and visual artist. She dropped four albums under the name Amanda Diva before she changed her last name to Seales. It’s a more appropriate name for her to go by. She doesn’t seem like a Diva whatsoever. She seems very down-to-earth.

You’ve been listening to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. This is the 44th episode and today we have been looking at actors-turned-rappers. We focused on D’Lil of Married With Children fame, Brian Green of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, Drake of Degrassi Fame, Childish Gambino of Community fame, and Amanda Diva of My Brother and Me fame.

It seems that rappers can turn to acting with relative ease but the transition doesn’t seem to work the other way. I’m not sure why that is the case, but I can say that if you have achieved fame in some other medium, it might not be in your best interest to initiate a rap career. That is why I jokingly titled this episode “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.”

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