It’s no secret that Justin Timberlake loves to simply show up and shock live television audiences. This quirky habit probably stems from his “Mickey Mouse Club” background, when he could get a quick rise out of a studio full of pre-teen girls just by flashing his signature smile. After a smooth career segue into boy band stardom and then onto solo works, Justin started craving that instant self-satisfaction once again. Feed that ego, boy.
Justin Timberlake first appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as both the host and musical guest during the show’s 29th season, which was also ex-“SNL” cast member Jimmy Fallon’s last year on the show. What went on beyond closed doors we’ll never know, but we can only assume that this is where Jimmy and Justin forged their friendship. Justin continued to appear on “SNL” — he hosted and made cameos during seasons 32, 34 and 36. The guy even won an Emmy Award for Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his job hosting the show in 2009. At this point we all wondered the same thing: Are all these drop-by cameos welcomed, or is JT overstaying his visit as the friend who just likes to “pop in?” (If you ask Andy Samberg, his partner from virally successful digital shorts “Dick in a Box,” “Mother Lover” and “Three Way,” the answer would most likely be no). More important, will Justin ever make another music record again? Hey man, inquiring minds want to know.
Welp, the man sure is keeping busy. Justin’s latest pit stop in his never-ending quest for instantaneous praise has been well-earned. “The History of Rap” is (for now) a trilogy performed live on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show, starring Justin and Jimmy backed up by the Roots. The clips feature a few lines from many major rap hits — everything from Will Smith to Eminem to Sir Mix-a-lot to Nicki Minaj manages to make its way into the medley.
The first installment premiered in September 2010, the second the following July, and the third just a few weeks ago. All three have been fawned over by JT and JF fans alike, because honestly? It’s damn near mesmerizing. The rapping, the singing, the dancing (ok, for Jimmy it’s more of a “bopping”) — we love it all. Sometimes it’s hard to knock JT for his cockiness. The guy is good at what he does, and Jimmy ain’t bad either.
The boys’ most recent performance included Run-DMC’s “King of Rock,” DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” De La Soul’s “Me, Myself and I,” Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day,” Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” Kanye West’s “Stronger” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.”
Here’s hoping for Part 4.
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.