So lately, I’ve really begun to think critically and write extensively on Generation FleX, a term I’ve coined that looks at [Black} History between the years of 1980-2000. It was the decade of hip-hop, the rise of Black cinema, and funky fresh fashion and high top fades. More than anything, the Generation FleX era gave us some of the most memorable television shows in recent history. The 90’s was a particularly good decade for Black representation as virtually ever single day of the week, I saw myself on the small screen. . Beyond representation, in order for me to dig the show, I mean really dig the show, it had to have a dope theme song. I started thinking about what my favorite theme songs were from the Generation FleX era. This list started at 10. Then grew to 15. Then 20. Finally, I capped it at 25 with a few honorable mentions.
In order to be on this list, the television show in question had to be on the air (first run) between January 1980 – and December 2000. Secondly, the theme song had to be deeply rooted in one of the MUL-TI-TUDE of Black music traditions: Jazz, hip-hop, soul, gospel, R&;B, rap, etc. Some shows make more than one appearance because they were Black & Bad enough to have more the one theme song for a different season.
Who’s not on this list: Okay…so there were some dope theme songs that didn’t quite make this list: The Jamie Fox Show, The Carmichael Show, A Different World (Season 1), My Brother & Me , Roc, and…wait for it….Family Matters. Family Matters JUST missed it. As soulful as that piano playing was, it just didn’t do enough to push it into the top 25. In Living Color Season 1 was a last minute swap out as well.
Now if you ain’t feeling this list, that’s your business. Start a blog and make your own 🙂
But in the meantime, here’s mine.
So without further ado, here are the 25 Blackest Television Theme Songs of the Generation FleX Era.
25. Gimme A Break (Season 3)
Starting this list off with my girl Nell Carter. For those of you familiar with Broadway, she was actually the original Effie in “Dreamgirls” before Jennifer Holiday came on board. She put her FOOT in this thang, you hear me?When she says “Cuz I shole need one!” I feel it in the depths of my soul!
24. Sister, Sister – “The Slowed Down Groove” (Season 6)
I’m here for all things given a slow groove. It’s how Black Moses, Soul Brother Number One Isaac Hayes, would’ve wanted it.
23. The Cosby Show – “The Cuban Jazz Funk” (Season 3)
Spoiler: The Cosby Show shows up on this list quite a few times. If Bill Cosby couldn’t do anything else, he could definitely select the perfect theme song. The season 3 theme song literally makes you want to grab your salsa partner and just get it in once or twice. This could’ve been higher on this list, honestly.
22. Kid-N-Play – The Kid-N-Play Intro
Debuting as the first animated series on this list, the Kid-N-Play cartoon intro is as Black and 90’s hip-hop as you could possibly get. Them drums tho??!
21. A Goof Troop
This gem is often left out of the conversation when it comes to dope theme songs from the 90’s. I don’t know why because it’s as Black as they come. Get into this Goofy groove because it’s Black as hell.
20. Sister, Sister “The Original” (Season 1)
Two dueling singing ass Black women in perfect harmony. I don’t see a problem in that one bit.
19. C-Bear and Jamal
Can we just stop and appreciate how Black this cartoon was? Jamal and this Omega print kufi; Tone Loc as the voice of C-Bear and rapping the theme song. We were immersed in all types of Blackness even on Saturday mornings with this one. The theme song was just a bonus.
The Wayans Family was hitting us with all types of Black excellence in the 90’s; The Wayans television series, Major Payne, In Living Color, A Low Down Dirty Shame…they never passed up an opportunity to put on. But this little gem here, “Waynehead,” and it’s Black to the Bones theme song, should be regarded as one of their greatest contributions.
17. Smart Guy (Season 1)
There’s a 8 year old with a sick flow here. Get into it.
16. The Cosby Show “The Acapella Be-Bop Edition” (Season 4)
This is easily one of the most impressive theme songs on this list. The entire song involves not one physical instrument. You can definitely hear Cosby’s affinity for jazz here and throughout the series.
15. A Different World – “Boys II Men” (Season 6)
The Boys II Men version is dope. No doubt about it. But this YOUNG MAN ABOVE?? He should be SLAPPED for singin the hell out of this theme the way he did. Ridiculous.
14. Kenan & Kel “The Coolio Rap” (Season 1)
I have no shame when I say this is easily one of Coolio’s most impressive deliveries. This song just SCREAMS 90’s west coast. When I hear it, I instantly go back to 1996. Who loves orange soda???
13. Gullah Gullah Island Theme (Season 1)
Because Blackness is all encompassing and knows no boundaries. This was a pretty groundbreaking show in retrospect. Showcasing the culture of the Gullah people and the island was a first (as far as I know) on television.
12. Moesha “Moe-to-the…” (Season 1)
Brandy has been blazing for 20 years. In her long list of accomplishments: Being the Black Cinderella, two multi-platinum albums before the age of 20, and being referred to as this generation’s “Vocal Bible,” Brandy casually gave us one the best and Blackest television sitcoms of the Generation FleX era and a dope theme song to boot.
11. Hangin With Mr. Cooper “Give it Up, Give it Up (Season 4)
A lost gem many forget to include in the theme song discussion, I think. I rarely see Hanging with Mr. Cooper on television in syndication anymore and its not on YouTube. This was definitely one of my favorites. Who we need to talk to to change that?
10. Hammer Man
Hammer literally rapped his life’s story for a minute straight every Saturday in the year of 1991 and nobody noticed. This is the highest ranking cartoon on the list and the only cartoon to make it in the top ten. It has that signature Hammer sound to it and goes pretty hard.
9. Living Single “In a 90’s Kind of World…”
Queen wrote it. Queen sang it. Queen flowed on it. Can we get the name of the home girl dancing her ass off in the intro? I think after 20 years, she deserves her due.
8. The Cosby Show (Season 6 &7)
I’m just here for the drums and the saxophone. Oh, and Phylicia Rashad gliding across the glass floor like the Queen she is. This merger of gospel, jazz, and soul makes this one of the greatest and Blackest theme songs of the Generation FleX era. Bravo to Bill Cosby; the brother could sure pick a theme song couldn’t he?
7. All That
When TLC is singing your theme song, you can never go wrong. Yall ever stop and really think about how #Black this show actually was? I was introduced to Erykah Badu on this show. Aaliyah, Monica, Immature, Changes Faces, and Usher all performed on the All That stage. Best yet? All That gave us Kenan Thompson.
6. A Different World – (Season 3) “That Time Aretha Got A Hold of it.”
Do I really need to discuss how Black this version of the theme song is? Aretha comes on this disrespectfully and leaves disrespectfully. Her version is easily the most recognizable. When you hear that guitar gear up and the Queen hits you with that “I #KNOW My parents loved me!” You stuck til the episode goes off.
5. Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper (EnVogue)
EnVogue harmonizing Mr. Cooper’s name. That is all. Dawn Lewis (Jaleesa from A Different World) is singing on here. Holly Robinson Peete even gets her a piece. Definitely earned its spot on this list at number 5.
Listen…have a seat…and lets talk about theme song here. This is the ONLY theme song in the HISTORY of television that you can play on its own and literally catch the spirit. I don’t know what possessed these people to let that woman go in the studio and tear this song up the way she did but I’m so glad she did! This is the epitome of a Black theme song and could’ve easily occupied any spot before it on this list.
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel – Air
Probably the first rap many of us committed to memory. You are only elevated to dope status if you can wrap the WHOLE version of this song. Not only is this one of the greatest television theme songs in history, it is one of the earliest indicators of Will Smith’s stellar storytelling abilities. I mean, he literally took you on a journey from beginning to end with this one here. A timeless classic that will live on forever.
This. Theme. Song. HERE! Marla Gibbs singing lead is gold. But, what makes this so Bad & Black? The background vocals! When the girls sang “You betta believe it!” I be crooning right along with them! If for no other reason, 227 should be praised for giving us one of the Blackest theme songs in television history, Jackie Harry, AND Regina King. I’d say that’s a win for all involved.
1. The Jeffersons
No theme song has EVER been Blacker than The Jeffersons. In just 60 seconds, the Jeffersons managed to cut off the music Missionary Baptist style, weave in the call and response, work in the double clap, AND have the nerve to have Winona from Good Times SLAYING lead vocals. Many have tried, but all failed to take their place. The Jeffersons, which debuted in 1975 but ran until 1985, is the predecessor to the Generation FleX era in more ways than one. But it is this Black ass theme song that separates them from the rest of the pack.