10 Sesame Street Moments to Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop!
November is National Hip-Hop History Month, and 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the culture, which includes rapping, DJing, beatboxing, graffiti, and breakdancing. The global influence of hip-hop can be seen in almost every aspect of our society, from music to dance to fashion to media and more.
But hip-hop wasn’t always so beloved. Hip-hop has regularly faced criticism regarding its legitimacy, impact, and importance, even as it was gaining in popularity. Incorporating hip-hop into Sesame Street as early as the 1980s is just one of the ways that Sesame Workshop has focused on making the show relevant and inclusive to its audience.
So, in honor of half a century of groundbreaking artists, cherished memories, and a vibrant cultural legacy, we’re bringing you ten hip-hop moments from Sesame Street that will make you want to bust a move. Hip-hop hooray!
1. “What I Am” with will.i.am
Seven-time Grammy Award winner will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas stopped by Sesame Street in 2010 to teach Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, and friends a song all about being proud of who and what you are. The song even went on to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the “Outstanding Original Song – Children’s and Animation” category. We couldn’t agree more!
2. Maria and Friends “Write it Down”
What do you do when you want to remember a thought or idea for later? Maria knows that one trick is to write it down and, starting in 1987, she wasn’t afraid to rap about it! In doing so, she not only taught children everywhere an important lesson about the value of pen and paper, but also the importance of embracing new forms of art.
3. Bill Irwin Break Dances at a Bus Stop
He’s not just Mr. Noodle…he’s also a great dancer! Watch Bill Irwin break out into a spontaneous break dance battle with friends (including dancer and choreographer Leon Chesney) at a bus stop in this clip from 1992.
4. Carrot vs. Sweet Potato Rap Battle
Deciding a favorite veggie is hard, but deciding a favorite veggie rapper is even harder! Crunchy Carrot (Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs) and Savory Sweet Potato (Loki’s Rafael Casal) battle it out to decide who gets to be a part of Elmo’s healthy dinner in this food rap battle hosted by the one and only DJ Lobster.
5. “The Letter O” with Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah launched her career as a beatboxer in 1988 before starting to rap the following year. When she visited our street in 1992, this Academy-Award nominated multi-hyphenate spoofed her hit song “That’s the Way We Flow” in the now iconic segment “The Letter O.” Oh, it doesn’t get much better than Queen Latifah!
6. Murray Had a Little Lamb
Move over, Mary. This segment theme song, written by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Hamilton and In the Heights and songwriter for Moana and Encanto), is all about our very own Murray, and the adventures he takes with his little lamb friend, Ovejita. Watch, in this segment, as the two of them attend “gardening school” to learn all about plants.
7. How They Became Bert and Ernie
Fans of Will Smith’s 1990’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will no doubt recognize this tune, which tells the tale of how Bert and Ernie came to be best friends and roommates. Try getting this one out of your head!
8. Elmo’s Rap Alphabet
This 1995 segment has gone on to garner over 18 million views on YouTube alone, and for good reason. It’s colorful, catchy, and features Elmo breaking it down. Petition to make this the alphabet song we learn in school?
9. Give It, Live It, RESPECT (ft. Common)
As part of Sesame Workshop’s Respect Brings Us Together campaign, the three-time Grammy Award winning rapper, actor, and activist joined Sesame Street friends Big Bird, Abby Cadabby, Elmo, Rosita, and more to rap all about how respect is power, unity, and kindness.
10. Cookie Monster’s “Healthy Food” Rap
You know him and love him for his passion for cookies, but did you know that Cookie Monster likes to eat all kinds of foods? Rap along with your favorite hungry monster as he eats fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods so he can grow big and strong!