Wow. Before assembling this list in honor of the passing of Heavy D, who composed and performed the In Living Color theme, I thought there would be countless examples of hip-hop theme songs to pick from. No dice.

It’s amazing how prevalent rap can be in the music industry, but remain virtually nonexistent as theme music, even for programs that would be targeted at rap fans (which nowadays is pretty much everyone anyway).

Soooooo, rather than populate this list with my favorite rap theme songs, I’m struggling to populate this list with any rap theme songs. This isn’t the rewarding exercise I thought it would be, but it still manages to be a pretty funny one, as some of these songs are completely absurd. And wouldn’t I rather make fun of bad stuff than enjoy good stuff unironically?

Yes, hipster self. Yes I would.

In Living Color

Performed by Heavy D, who just yesterday died from cause unknown at the age of 44 (it seems like he was 44 in 1989, but I was just a dumb kid then), this song was among the first forays into this genre of music for a TV show, which is completely fitting, seeing as how In Living Color was one of the first forays by a major network into non-white sketch comedy.

The song was written explicitly for the show and caused a Pavlovian response to my 12 year-old self when I would hear it kick off with “How you livin’? WHAT? How you livin’? WHAT?”

Living Single

If you can get past the images presented during the intro, perhaps you can study or even enjoy the musical accompaniment. After all, it was performed by no less than Queen Latifah, who was one of the most iconic rappers of all time before she became a movie star.

Unsurprisingly, the Living Single theme sounds a lot like In Living Color's, Martin’s and another Fox show that didn’t make the list because it was so awful, Babes. They all peddle that New Jack Swing, feel good hip hop that was actually de rigueur before gangster rap stepped in and co-opted hip hop for the rest of the decade.

I personally would have rather heard “Gimme Dat Nut” as the theme song to Living Single, but I wasn’t even consulted on this. Amazing.

Please watch this video of these actually funky women dancing. It looks like how the women from The View would dance today. Was everyone this dorky in the 90’s?

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Ahhh. The one bright shining star in this list. The song is catchy and brings even a brand new viewer entirely up to speed on the premise of the show in about 55 seconds. Though Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” brand of rap/talk/storytelling hasn’t held up since his “Parents Just Don’t Understand”/”Nightmare on My Street”/”I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson” days, this song will forever remain in the annals of TV history.

It’s pretty much achieved earworm status at this point. Once the seed is planted, you’re screwed for the rest of the day.

“Innnnnn West Philadelphia born and raised…”


Ok. That was mean. Let me fix it.



This song is included not because it’s tried-and-true hip-hop – it’s not, but rather because this is the shape that hip-hop seemed to take in television, specifically, cable crime dramas. Can you hear the fusion between bluegrass and rap? Well, you can hear it again in The Sopranos theme song by Alabama 3. Or how about the hybrid of shit-metal and rap for The Shield’s Kid Rock-esque theme song.

I’m not sure why they do it, as none of the aforementioned songs are that good. Maybe cause they don’t want to scare whitey. Well, I’m whitey. And I can handle it. Quit watering down my rap, showrunners.


Uhhh…here’s a rap song. From MC Hammer. For his TV cartoon series Hammerman.

I really don’t know what else to say here. It’s MC Hammer, which was at one point considered rap, but is now barely identifiable as such. Rather it sounds like some crystal meth-addled epileptic manned a sampling board.

Also, listen to this if only to enjoy MC Hammer struggle with the timing of the lyrics, rushing some, then drawing others out. However, you can pretty much feel his excitement and relief when he gets to the final chorus, like he knows he’s done with this shit.



The Martin theme song changed several times over the years, but the message remains the same. The message, of course, is “Mahr-IN!”


Other than that, we’re dealing with that same familiar swing beat, some fake bandleader mumbling some nonsensical shit in later seasons, and that’s pretty much it. Remarkably, this kind of stuff was pretty on-point with about 40% of popular hip-hop during this period, and it was exactly the same kind of thing that Heavy D made a career out of.


We all know this song, and sure, it sounds reggae, but it’s not pure reggae. It’s not unlike Snow’s “Informer,” only the guys that sing this song are really, really black.

Never before has a theme song been so popular. About 90% of the population is familiar with the chorus, and like, 0% is familiar with anything beyond that. I had a friend who owned their CD, and I can safely say that 30 seconds is plenty. It’s almost disconcerting when you don’t hear “COPS follows the men and women of law enforcement. All subjects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

If Heavy D was here, he'd want you to click on that picture of Christina Hendricks...

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