The phenomenally successful Glee kicked off its second season earlier this week, with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ home-town anthem “Empire State Of Mind” showcased in the opening song spot. But while entire episodes of the show have been effectively hooked around the music of pop icons Madonna, Lady Gaga, and (next week) Britney Spears—a factor which has helped cast recording CDs shift over seven million copies, while also giving a sales boost to the original artist’s songs—Glee’s rap routines exist unceremoniously between the embarrassing and the horrific. (“Did you know that there’s a forum on my blog that’s begging you to stop rapping?” the school’s blogger asks club leader Mr. Schuester, a teacher whose main educational maneuver seems to be performing tacky rap hits, at one point.) Here are ten Glee-flipped versions of rap songs—and the occasional rap-related r&b ditty—that will have you thinking perhaps Vanilla Ice wasn’t that bad after all.
Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby”
When the Glee kids are feeling down about themselves, club leader Mr. Schuester decides to inspire them by performing a rap song. This happens a lot in the show. Looking teacher-fabulous in an open-necked white shirt and beige chinos, Mr. Schu, as the kids call him, kicks a worryingly enthusiastic version of the most famous rap song ever performed by a man named Van Winkel. More worryingly, this inspires some of the group to tackle a song by Ice’s pop-rap pal MC Hammer…
MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”
The wheelchair-bound Artie has become something of the go-to-guy for rap moments in Glee. Here he tackles super-dancing machine MC Hammer’s mega-hit, “U Can’t Touch This,” complete with four backing dancers rocking the obligatory billowing parachute pants. Bafflingly, they perform the song in the school library in a bid to raunch-up their reputations. It fails: The elderly librarian tries to book them to perform at her church.
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys, “Empire State Of Mind”
In their continual quest to prove to the other students just how cool and hip they really are, the Glee club decides to perform Jay-Z’s second most showtune-sounding hit. Unfortunately, they’re clad in ‘New York City’ t-shirts that make them look more like they’re in a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video from the ’80s than paying homage to mid-’90s State Street chic. As if testifying to the nuanced complexity of Jigga’s flow, Artie looks like he’s struggling with constipation while bragging about how he’s “been ‘hood forever.”
Young MC, “Bust A Move”
After taking off his shirt to reveal a tight-fitting gray v-neck t-shirt, Mr. Schu raps salaciously about wishing “you could sex her” to a room largely full of teenage school girls in cheerleader outfits. Further wooing his underage charges, he also breakdances. Sex does not ensue.
Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch, “Good Vibrations”
Being a Glee kid means being high on life, and here the club turn their talents to tackling Marky Mark’s insufferably cheesy hit and its none-too-subtle anti-drugs message. With a fleetness of thought and tongue presumably honed at many nights freestyling at the Lyricist Lounge, Puck flips the lyrics and raps, “Many wanna know who done this/Pucky Puck, and I’m here to move you.” (It’s Finny D on the back-up, if you were wondering.)
Kanye West, “Gold Digger”
“How about a little Kanye?” opens Mr. Schu as he meets the kids for the day’s singing session. Honestly not indulging in any racial stereotyping whatsoever, he asks Mercedes, the hefty black girl of the Glee club, if she knows the song. “Oh, I got this!” she says confidently. The kicker: The whole thing’s a subliminal dis towards Schuester’s wife, who faked a pregnancy and at one point planned to adopt teen-student Quinn’s baby!
Salt-N-Pepa, “Push It”
In a plot-line that involves the Glee geeks attempting to recruit more new members than the chastity club, the self-absorbed Rachel leads a performance of the female Queens rappers’ sassy party anthem. For some unexplained reason, she raps in a really squeaky voice. But once more it’s Artie who steals the stage, this time doing Hurby Luv Bug’s “only the sexy people” voice-over warning, while two girls swivel their assess in front of him. His invite to the Player’s Ball beckons.
Bel Biv DeVoe, “Poison”
When not busy divorcing his wife, eying the school’s cheerleaders, lusting after the guidance counselor, and generally showing no discernible teaching skills whatsoever, Mr. Schuester also finds time to star in his own all-male a cappella group. Called The Acafellas, they indulge in Schu’s insatiable penchant for urban sounds by performing the new jack swing classic “Poison” at a club that brings to mind Saved By The Bell‘s The Max cafe turned into an after-hours spot. As they warn, “Me and the crew used to do her,” you realize this might be the only time when a cameo from Dustin ‘Screech’ Diamond would add class to the proceedings.
Nelly feat. City Spud, “Ride Wit Me”
For once, the preppy-dressing Rachel doesn’t look completely uncomfortable being surrounded by people rapping, this time with the whole ensemble enjoying a joyful rendition of Nelly’s ode to picking up real-life 18 and 19-year old chicks with booming 36-25-34 vital stats. Cheerleader Britany enjoys performing the song so much that she even pretends to be a DJ cuing up a record at one point! You’ve gotta feel for City Spud, Nelly’s half-brother, if this was the first thing he saw of today’s brave new music world after coming home from a ten-year jail bid.
Color Me Badd, “I Wanna Sex You Up”
By now you know the routine: Mr. Schu loosens up his clothing (this time his tux’s tie), and sings a song ostensibly about getting into someone’s pants in a possibly inappropriate setting. His wife is in the audience for this one. Acknowledging her presence, he throws a particularly slinky hip gyration her way. Sue Sylvester, the show-stealing cheerleader head coach and Schuester’s nemesis (played by Jane Lynch), looks on at the whole shebang not so much disapprovingly as like she’s going to puke.