From its humble beginnings in the South Bronx to "Rappers Delight" to Run-DMC, N.W.A and beyond, hip-hop has proved to be the most vital and progressive music form of the past 20 years, with enough staying power to rival even rock 'n' roll's lengthy reign. Like rock, rap struck terror into the hearts of white Middle America only after it became the music of choice for many a white suburban kid. Since rap operated outside the mainstream star machinery for so long, it managed to escape the watering down that early rock 'n' roll was subjected to by the industry.

Or did it? Some might argue that a watering down is happening right now. And it doesn't involve Pat Boone covering Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Years ago, it would've been unthinkable for Queen "This Rhyme Don't Require Prime Time" Latifah to be starring in her own sitcom. Even more unthinkable--that she'd be roommates with goody-goody Tootie from The Facts of Life! Following Fresh Prince's lead, LL Cool J, Sir Mix A Lot, Tone Loc and Yo Yo have all traded in what little remaining street credibility they may have had for the lure of the laugh track. What follows is a possible projection of what we fear could happen in the not-so-distant future. If TV programmers try to make hip-hop more palatable to white Nielsen audiences, we may well see decriminalized gangsta rap, sugar-coated hip-hop and a lovable hoe in every living room at 8 p.m.

1. MILITANTS' ISLAND They're black, they're angry and they're marooned on a desert island. No mikes, no beepers, no cellular phones, not a single luxury. United only by their distrust of The Man, the seven stranded castaways include a Skipper (Chuck D.), a first mate (Flavor Flav), a Professor (renowned Hebrew-hating Professor Griff) and two angry, fist-pumping sisters, Ginger (Nefertiti) and Mary Ann (Sister Souljah). Watch as this zany group with 200-plus years of deeply rooted hostility scares off every white rescue party that comes ashore. 2. WELCOME BACK, KRS 1

His dreams were his ticket out of the 'hood, but the "edutainment" rapper returns to his old high school in the South Bronx to teach black youths how to better themselves with knowledge. The kids tease KRS 1 a lot 'cause they got him on the spot. In their words, "If you're so smart, Teach, how come you made that shitty 'Radio Song' with R.E.M.?"

Hoes With Attitude star as three ingnues who left their rural home of Hooterville with one objective--to move to Beverly and show off as much booty as possible without going over the legal legit. You're in for heaping helpings of their hospitality if you're patient enough to wait for them to uncross their legs. Before they're through, Beverly Hills is gonna be one big semen pond!

What happens when an old-school rapper exposes his shortcomings in a Madonna coffee-table book and a series of weak follow-ups to Long Live Daddy Kane? If you're Big Daddy Kane, you open up the Big Daddy Kane Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and perform your nonthreatening, cornball brand of ancient hip-hop to white tourists out for a night on the town. "Pimpin' Ain't Easy," but it sho is funny.

Hey, Left Eye, rrrrrl, whatcha gonna do with that rolled newspaper and lighter fluid? Looks like everybody's favorite arsonist from TLC is back from alcohol rehab with one burning desire--to make YOU laugh! Left Eye's gone an' married Andre Rison, the Atlanta Falcon wide receiver whose mansion she's already torched once before. Expect the Bitch of Burn to take her stormy relationship to new heights of comedy--and pyromania!

Meet two of the crustiest Good Humor men this side of Compton! O.G. the "Original Gangsta" (Ice-T) teams up with the "Nigga Ya Love to Hate" (Ice Cube) to sell frozen-food products sprinkled with provocative and sometimes violent rhetoric. In the season opener, the volatile vendors spend the entire episode justifying to their branch manager why they won't serve Asians, gays and "white devils." But on the plus side, they do get out of the truck to whup drug dealers.

In a misguided attempt to jump on the rap bandwagon and still not alienate viewers, the Family Channel resurrects the reviled Vanilla Ice. Mr. "Ice Ice Baby" makes good on his bogus bad-boy past by returning to his tough Miami high school to teach the black student body there how to shoot hoops better than the Harlem Globetrotters, how to bust a rhyme and how to dance circles around Hammer. The show will win an Emmy for Best New Science Fiction Series.

"Horror-core" rappers Gravediggaz strike a frightening chord with their neighbors at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. But it isn't so much their splatter rap tales of death in the electric chair, committing suicide and drinking the blood of dead MCs that have got everyone's skin crawling. Nope, it's the thought of four brothers with gold-encrusted teeth living with a blond chick named Marilyn!

If Hogan's Heroes could make a Nazi POW camp seem like a block party, think of what TV could do with Tupac Shakur's explosive personal life! Charges of sodomy. Sexual abuse. Weapons possession. Punching out movie directors. Punching out limo drivers. Shooting off-duty police in self-defense. To anyone who doesn't understand his Thug Life message, it's the best slapstick on television since Laverne & Shirley. Not even two bullets in the head and one through the scrotum could stop wacky Tupac from being America's funniest homeboy! You think pitting him against Home Improvement is gonna make him flinch? Read his lips!

It was almost inevitable that skits like "The Doctor's Office" which Andre Young (Dr. Dre) placed between cuts on his platinum album The Chronic would one day be fleshed out to sitcom proportions. Once a Nigga With Attitude, Doc's put his bitch-slapping days behind him to begin his residency in South Central General Hospital, administering the slap of life to newborn infants. Dr. Kill Dre delivers--only the laughs are chronic!

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