At some point around the late 1980s or early 1990s, a more or less benign virus befell educators and otherwise well-meaning people. The disease drove people to make a sometimes awkward decision over and over: to put serious didactic messages in very straightforward raps.
No doubt when you were growing up, you were likely forced to learn multiplication or to brush your teeth by a tool in clownish baggy pants, awkwardly rhyming in the hopes that you’d think they were cool.
But let’s take a look at maybe the ultimate work of this genre – an educational rap by people who are/were actually good rappers. Behold this treasure from 1990, an Earth Day rap titled “Workin’ Together,” by a group called the Planet Raps Back.
Okay, the Planet Raps Back wasn’t a real group – it was one concocted for a special that year that aired on ABC (again, disclaimer, ABC/Disney is one of Fusion’s parent companies). A kind soul uploaded the whole thing to YouTube here, and it’s a treasure trove of nostalgia, featuring everyone from Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman to the original “Ghostbusters” cast to Robin Williams. (RIP to Robin and Harold Ramis.)
But if you want the absolute best few minutes, it’s “Workin’ Together,” which features a veritable all-star cast of mainstream rap that year: Will Smith (then still the Fresh Prince), Tone Loc, Queen Latifah, Ice T, Kid N Play, and Heavy D. (Again, pour one out for the latter.) Oh yeah, and Quincy Jones opens up the whole thing.
Watch the video in full below. Or, just please enjoy the absolute best lines and moments from the video, which takes place in a “Sesame Street”-like set (yes, Henson was involved in this project), and involves a lot of Happy Olds dancing to Ice T.
The only depressing thing about it, perhaps, is that, 25 years later, we’re still trying to get people to take environmental issues and climate change seriously. But hey, chase down that bummer with some lulz at 1990 haircuts.
Now, if your appetite is truly whetted, enjoy the whole thing here. Please try to pitch in and save the planet — Ice T said so.