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It’s been 15 years since New York came alive with the Free the Lox campaign. While Puffy and the Lox have seemingly made peace since, the ups-and-downs of their relationship remains one of the most turbulent in rap history. Styles P plays Brooklyn’s The Wick on Tuesday, April 29th, and while he and his Lox co-horts are known for a memorable live show, there is one performance of theirs that remains among the most bizarre rap performances ever recorded. We’re talking about the time the Lox played Nickelodeon’s All That.
There’s something to be said for how Nickelodeon, more specifically their Saturday night programming block “Snick” utilized rap music. Hip-hop had been around for about two decades, and in the wake of the fizzling hyper-commercialized success of MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice years prior, the channel found success marketing the counter-culture aspects to young adults and tweens. Some of the biggest stars in the genre, and all of music, like TLC and Coolio were popping up all over the channel, doing cameos and even theme music. Nickelodeon had tapped into the coming of age thrill of discovering your older sibling’s music, and funneled it into the two extra hours you got to stay up on Saturdays.
The success rate of the children’s television-hip-hop connection was higher for the channel than it had absolutely any right to be. Nickelodeon programming was confidently cool for kids entering that awkward phase where, God forbid, anyone knew they were still watching “kiddie” shows. It was also introducing them at a young age to a genre and culture that they most likely had no other real exposure to. Naughty By Nature, Aaliyah, and Faith Evans were suddenly introducing infectious melodies and charismatic bravado smack dab in the middle of kids getting their Clarissa Explains it All and Are You Afraid of the Dark? fix. There’s even the reverence for hip-hop history that the channel proved to be ahead of the curve for, such as introducing frequent guest LL Cool J as “hip-hop legend” and even having Run-DMC perform “Christmas in Hollis” during “All That’s” holiday special.
But sometimes the combination just didn’t work.
Sean “Puffy” Combs did a lot for the Lox. The gritty trio, who at one time were called the Warlocks, were given a glossy makeover and outfitted with sheer pristine Bad Boy production, resulting in tracks like “Money, Power, Respect” that fit them in the high-roller high-budgeted New York hip-hop soundscape. Years later, the Lox claimed their hand was forced, and that Bad Boy, beyond taking so much of their money and publishing rights, were making them uncomfortably fit into Puffy’s particular vision. Once free, they linked up with Ruff Ryders in 1999 and over-corrected their image to the point of t-shirts, jeans, dimly lit videos and ominously sparse Swizz Beats production.
In retrospect, despite the success and longevity it wound up bringing to their careers, it might seem like the Lox tried too hard to distance themselves from their Bad Boy personas. I’d like to ask those who share such a view point to take a look at the clip at the top of the page and tell me if you can really blame them.
In 2014, we recognize the Lox as one of the most effortlessly intimidating presences to ever step foot behind a mic. Yet, there was a time when these same artists were in street clothes performing a song based around a Rod Stewart sample of which the word “jiggy” is a cornerstone for a crowd that looks like a particularly popular eight-year-old’s birthday at Chuck-E-Cheese.
This is a thing that really happened.
From the sounds of things, a lot of the language had to be dropped. More disturbing is the innuendo that remained. While at least Lox member Sheek Louch seems to be having a good time and incorporating the show into his verses, Styles P and Jadakiss seem less accommodating to the fact that they’re performing “If You Think I’m Jiggy” to a room full of children.