Rappers Love ‘90s Nick Cartoons
Timmy Turner’s name has been synonymous with wand waving wishes, magical fairies, and Nickelodeon for the last 18 years, but after 2016, the innocent cartoon character will be remembered for a wish he never made on Fairly Odd Parents. Call it catchy, damn it as infectious, but the true genius of Desiigner’s “Timmy Turner” is how he took a nostalgic character and brought him into a world of gun wishes and souls burning. That’s what was so grabbing about the XXL freestyle—even if you couldn’t understand a single word that followed, any child of the '90s knew Timmy, knew of his wishes, and now the nerdy, but adventurous cartoon character with a head bigger than his torso and buckteeth protruding from his mouth like a beaver had made it into a harmonic rap hook on a potentially big single.
Think of all the Timmy Turner related content that came after? The fan art, the memes, Timmy was everywhere and it was thanks to Desiigner. There are two things that will always sell - sex and nostalgia. It's no surprise the song to remove Desiigner from the one-hit-wonder conversation is his most nostalgic.
Cartoons hold a direct correlation with childhood memories. The younger you are, the more connected you feel. This is why a series that aired in the '90s on Nickelodeon can hold a special place in many millennial hearts. We were children, we were young, freshly hatched from our eggs, and we had The Rugrats, Doug, All That, Kenan & Kel, Ren & Stimpy, plus all the other classics from that era to keep our attention. We hold on to them dearly as bookmarks of simpler days and easier nights. Adults who watch those shows now do so through the eyes of a child, lost in the waves of nostalgia. The same feeling is triggered when you hear a rapper make a reference to a character or series from that time frame. Just as we did, some of our favorite rappers grew up on these very same shows, watching these very same cartoons, it’s only natural they are shown some love.
“All facts in fact, been all that before Kenan and Kel swallow the key to my cell, which means, I got an impossible lock to pick,” J. Cole raps on “The Cure” a loosie that was released around the release of Born Sinner. It’s not an incredibly clever line, but any '90s kid will appreciate how he referenced both All That and Kenan & Kel since Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were both a part of the original All That cast before getting their own spinoff. Andy Milonakis has a simpler variation of the line, “I got Kenan and Kel bars, I’m all that,” but it's Khary, a young rapper on the come up, who has my favorite Kenan and Kel bar yet with, “Kenan and Kel, damn here we go again, this is not Catdog, Nickelodeon.” The way he referenced the show, their catchphrase, another '90s series, and bringing it back around to Nickelodeon is proof enough that he's a true '90s baby that wears his nostalgia on his raincoat.
Rappers have a way of mentioning events and series as a way of dating, to reference a specific time frame. Blu does it well on “Never Be The Same” as he states, “I used to bust back when ya’ll was watching Rugrats.” Born in ‘83, Blu was about nine when Rugrats first premiered, so he sees the popular show as a landmark. Rugrats is arguably the Illmatic of the 90’s Nick cartoons, and you can debate your VCR if you feel otherwise. Greatest is a title many have bestowed upon the show and for many reasons. Simple yet compelling, children couldn’t get enough of Tommy and company. I don't know of any other series that was popular enough to release two, full-length blockbuster films worldwide. Everyone knows the Rugrats. Kirk Knight has a line from his song “The Future” that I really like:
“Everyday my mind is laced, strapped up, protection on the waist of Rugrats, trying to find angelic sounds in this place”
There’s a great use of imagery. He paints a picture of children with guns, the use of angelic seems to be a reference to Angelica, Tommy’s big cousin in the series. How he was able to manipulate the words and still reference the series and his surroundings makes it an incredible wordplay.
When Chance rapped, “Used to like orange cassette tapes with Timmy, Tommy, and Chuckie,” on “Cocoa Butter Kisses” it was almost like a time machine that sent you back to sitting in front of the television hearing the VCR rewind the bright orange Rugrats Movie for the thousandth time. There were a few different orange VCR tapes around the house, but none more iconic than the first Rugrats Movie. Tommy has been pretty popular with the rappers, especially with the last name Pickles, the sexual innuendos and gun references write themselves. Earl and Tyler, Robb Bank$ and Childish Gambino, fitting that such a series would have a strong presence in other forms of pop culture.
If there’s anyone that rappers love more than Tommy, it’s Patti Mayonnaise from Doug. One of the first lines Mick Jenkins raps on “Animated Ambition” is, “All I ever wanted was a young Patti Mayonnaise.” While SZA sings on “Pray,” “Feeling like Topanga, Patty Mayonnaise, kind of average, with queen qualities.” It’s interesting to hear how SZA relates herself both to Patti and Topanga from Boy Meets World, two noticeable '90s women who dominated youth television. Unlike “Timmy Turner” most of the songs that reference '90s cartoons are fairly underground, not big singles that are playing every hour on the hour.
Well...there was one song from 2008 that referenced both Patti Mayonnaise and Otto Rocket that was a huge viral hit, remember “Swag Surfin”? The dance has become a sensation at parties, if “March Madness” is the national anthem, “Swag Surfin” is the dance of our nation. With that said, because people are so caught up in waving left to right, it’s easy to miss out on lines like, “And I’m surfing like I’m Otto cause I got that Rocket Power” and “Shawty check my dougie like she Patti Mayonnaise.” Two more reasons why “Swag Surfin” is a song to be treasured.
Doug Funnie gets plenty of love from rappers, Jeremiah Jae was able to cleverly reference Doug, Patti, and even Skeeter to showcase the prowess of his pen on “Pervert” and XV also came up with a humorous reference likening how he eats beats to Doug. And I was impressed by the love rappers have for Otto and Rocket Power. It wasn’t the series that received a big feature film, but there was a following that really enjoyed the extreme sports aspect that Rocket Power brought to Nick. Takeoff from the Migos bragged that his, “Diamonds surfin like Rocket Power,” a stunt that I don’t understand completely. Jace from the Atlanta collective Two-9 used a slick flow on “Nothing Else” to mention Otto's Rocket Power, while illClinton (“I’m Otto Rocket, I’m grindin so Tony Hawk-ish”) and Angel Haze ("I got it, yeah bitches I got it, now I can shred it like I’m Reggie or Otto Rocket”) used the series for more skateboard heavy references.
If I had to pick one Nick toon as a favorite, it would have to be Hey Arnold. The cast of characters are colorful in diversity, there’s literally someone that everyone can relate to. It was a show well before it’s time. I was surprised to hear Meek Mill reference Hey Arnold on a record, the line “Head big as Hey Arnold's is, full of blood” is both nostalgic and gruesome. That’s not exactly how I want to picture the world's beloved football head. Kodak Black is the young Floridian freshmen making waves, and he’s only building more momentum with every release. On the song “Benjis” he pays homage to the series in a way that's very Kodak. With the rumor of a new Hey Arnold movie in the works, don’t be surprised if more raps reference Arnold, Helga, Harold and Gerald in the near future.
Whether it’s Timmy Turner or Patti Mayonnaise there’s always going to be a feeling of nostalgia when some of the most memorable cartoons and shows from our childhood appear in rap songs. Who knows, Desiigner could have just sparked the next big wave in rap. If Timmy Turner can reach the top of Billboard heavens, there’s no telling what will follow. Maybe it will be Invader Zim, Ren and Stimpy, or even CatDog that will be the name used to hypnotize us next?
By Yoh, aka 90's Baby Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Art Credit: Jerron Couture