Bust a Move

Bust a move todd in shadows.jpg

Date Aired
February 1, 2020
Running Time
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Todd plays "Bust a Move" on the piano.

A one-hit retrospective

Todd: Bust it!

Clip of Young MC - "Bust a Move"

Young MC: This here's a jam for all the fellas

Todd: This here is One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. And we have a jam today.

Todd (VO): I can't believe I haven't done this yet. I get a lot of requests for this one.

Todd: Well, if you want it, baby, you got it.

Young MC: Says she wanna dance 'cause she likes to groove

So come on, fatso, and just bust a move

Todd (VO): It is the late '80s. [clip of Yo! MTV Raps intro] Hip-hop is now almost 10 years old. And at this point, everyone at least knows what rap music is, but it's still kind of a niche genre. There hasn't been a whole lot of crossover into the mainstream yet. Todd: But that will end in 1989.

Clip of "Bust a Move"

Todd (VO): No small thanks to one of the first and most enduring classics of pop-rap. Todd: And that is, of course, Young MC's...

Young MC: And what comes next? Hey, bust a move

Todd: ..."Bust a Move"!

Young MC: Music comes on, people start to dance

But then you ate so much you nearly split your pants

Todd (VO): It's corny. It's cheesy. It reliably fills wedding reception dancefloors to this day.

Young MC: Reception's jumping, faces pumping

Todd (VO): I love this song. I mean yes, it's a very silly track, I... I think I would make a case for it though, as a song of real importance.

Todd: A key stepping stone in hip-hop's transition from the underground to the cultural juggernaut it is now.

Todd (VO): [brief clips of hip-hop videos I don't know] Hip-hop's move to the mainstream was rocky and not all of it has held up well, but "Bust a Move" still gets a crowd moving and you do still hear it today.

Todd: The lyricism is a little clumsy.

Young MC: OK smarty, go to a party

Todd (VO): The flow is really basic. The subject matter is kind of doofy. And it's not remotely edgy or dangerous. Public Enemy this is not.

Todd: But it still has one of the tightest grooves that ever lit up the rap charts, and it probably earned hip-hop hundreds of thousands of fans it didn't have before.

Todd (VO): In Young MC's own words, "Bust a Move" was a lot of people's first girlfriend in terms of rap music.

Todd: And yet, I don't feel like the man himself has ever really got his due.

Todd (VO): Young MC was a pioneer. For one thing, he was the first rapper [shot of Young MC logo] with "Young" in his name.

Todd: Without him, we would not have [pictures of...] Young Thug, Yung Joc, Young M.A, Young Sheldon, [image of poster for Young Einstein and cover of Youngblood comic] and every other young rapper who's ever existed. And I'm sure he did other things too.

Todd (VO): So let us take a long look back at the man who taught us what to do whenever a fly honey looks your way.

Todd: Move it, boyyy!

Young MC: A girl runs up with something to prove

So don't just stand there, bust a move

Before the hit

Clip of Kurtis Blow performing "The Breaks"

Kurtis: If your woman steps out with another man

Crowd: That's the breaks!

Todd (VO): Hip-hop began at the dawn of the '80s. [clip of A Tribe Called Quest - "Can I Kick It?"] By 1990, hip-hop had reached the number one spot on the Hot 100. [clip of Vanilla Ice -...] With "Ice Ice Baby", unfortunately, but that's still technically a rap song, so that was a...

Todd: ...big moment.

Clip of "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer

Todd (VO): That was also the year of Hammer. Uh, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice aren't super-respected today, but they were rap's first pop superstars, they proved that hip-hop could rule the world. Todd: But they didn't just spontaneously happen. The ground was already shaking before them.

Clip of "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC featuring Aerosmith

Todd (VO): Now, Run-DMC had reached the top 10, [clip of live performance of Beastie Boys - "Rhymin' and Stealin'"] as had the Beastie Boys, who also had a number 1 album, [clip of Beastie Boys - "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)"] but those tracks were as much rock songs as they were hip-hop. [clip of J.J. Fad - "Supersonic"] Late 1988 is where hip-hop really starts to [clip of LL Cool J - "I'm That Type of Guy"] succeed entirely on its own terms... Todd: ...without pandering to the rock crowd.

Montage of "Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie and "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock

Todd (VO): DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince broke into the top 10, there was also "Just a Friend", "It Takes Two". Now, these were all real well-known songs, but... Todd: ...the highest-charting rap song of the '80s [clip of Young MC Arsenio interview] came from a 22-year-old named Marvin Young, better known as Young MC. And in late-1988, he wrote the song that would scale all the way to number 2, forever changing the course of hip-hop.

Clip of "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc

Tone: Workin' all week

9 to 5 for my money

Todd (VO): The song I am talking about is, of course, "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc, a humongous hit at the time.

Tone: Be my queen if you know what I mean

And let's do the wild thing

Todd: Ya know, I'm not sure how Tone Loc is remembered. Todd (VO): His flow was very simple and he never had another hit after this year [brief clip of Surf Ninjas trailer], he mostly became of fixture of early '90s kids movies. But, before that, Tone Loc was an actual rapper, I think he was considered pretty cool. He had that amazing voice. [brief clip of Terminator 2: Judgment Day] Arnold Schwarzenegger got his second most famous catchphrase directly from this song.

Tone: Hasta la vista, baby

Todd (VO): With "Wild Thing", he became the highest-charting rapper ever.

Clip of "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc

Tone: You must be sure that your girl is pure for the Funky Cold Medina

Todd (VO): Tone Loc followed that up with another huge hit, "Funky Cold Medina". Todd: Both of these hits were co-written by Young MC.

Tone: Put a little Medina in your glass and the girls'll come real quick

Todd (VO): These are both pretty good songs but obviously this isn't N.W.A or anything. In fact, the way Tone Loc tells it, Young MC was brought in specifically to water these songs down.

Clip of "Wild Thing"

Todd (VO): Loc says his original verses were really filthy, and the label didn't think they could sell that, so they brought Young MC in to write some cleaner lyrics. Todd: But for the pop charts, it was still pretty risque.

Tone: But that's what happens when bodies start slapping

From doin' the wild thing

Todd (VO): It was something Young MC knew he couldn't do on his own. Todd: Marvin Young was a college kid. [picture of him wearing a suit and glasses] He was not gangsta, he never pretended to be.

Clip of Tone Loc performing on The Arsenio Hall Show

Todd (VO): As opposed to Tone Loc who had some level of street cred 'cause his rap name came from gang slang and he had that rough-voiced delivery. [clip of Young MC interview] You'd think co-writing two big hits would boost Young MC as he worked on his debut record, but he says he was worried. He wrote those songs to fit Tone Loc's style and he didn't know if his own style would measure up.

Todd: I mean, could a kid like him ever get big?

The big hit

Clip of "Bust a Move"

Young MC: Bust it!

Clip of Todd dancing

Todd (VO): It is very easy to identify the first thing that "Bust a Move" does right. So let's talk about that beat. Todd: Which is one of the most killer samples hip-hop ever uncovered.

Clip of "Found a Child" by Ballin' Jack, which plays over pictures of the band

Ballin' Jack: Where, where can you be

Todd (VO): It's from an extremely obscure early '70s jazz-rock band named Ballin' Jack, which is a pretty fuckin' great band name. And this is their song "Found a Child". Here comes the sample.

Clip of the part Young MC sampled

Todd: I thought for sure those opening measures must have been remixed together from several other tracks. [image of Ballin' Jack] I cannot believe a band just spontaneously recorded those measures, "yeah"'s and "ha"'s included. This is a sample you dream about discovering, what a find.

Clip of "Bust a Move"

Young MC: Music comes on, people start to dance

Todd (VO): "Bust a Move" is a great dance song, first and foremost. Like, who couldn't move to that? The beat does switch up a lot after the opening, we get some different drums here and there, an even [clip of Flea in the video] funkier bassline that... Todd: Wait, is that Flea?!

Young MC: ...man who brings home the bacon

Got no money and you got no car

Todd (VO): Holy shit, that's Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Todd: Flea made the bassline to this. I had no idea.

Clips of "Knock Me Down" and "Give It Away" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a brief clip of Flea in the "Bust a Move" video

Todd (VO): And the Red Hot Chili Peppers were not superstars in 1989. They did become superstars shortly after that. Was it the momentum from this song...

Todd: ...that launched them into the stratosphere? [No.] It's worth thinking about. [Also no.]

Todd (VO): But what about Young MC himself, what does he contribute?

Young MC: On a mission, and you're wishing

Someone could cure your lonely condition

Todd (VO): Much like "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina", "Bust a Move" is about scoring chicks. But the tone is very different. Tone Loc raps from the perspective of a guy who knows he's gonna smash that night.

Clip of "Funky Cold Medina"

Tone: This is the '80s and Loc is down with the ladies

Todd: "Bust a Move" is about...

Clip of "Bust a Move"

Todd (VO): ...well, not about losers exactly, but it is about guys for whom getting laid is not a foregone conclusion.

Young MC: Tell a funny joke just to get some play

Then you try to make a move and she says "no way"

Todd (VO): It's also a fun snapshot into how dating worked in 1989.

Young MC: Theater gets dark just to start the show

Then you spot a fine woman sittin' in your row

Todd (VO): You can just pick up chicks at the movies? Amazing! Nowadays you have to download an app and it's all much more complicated. Todd: What really strikes me about "Bust a Move" is Young MC's flow.

Young MC: Girls are fakin', goodness sakin'

They want a man who brings home the bacon

Todd (VO): Now rap has obviously grown extensively since 1989. [clip of Pitbull - "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"] Even your poppiest pop-rappers don't sound like "Bust a Move", they try to sound a lot looser, more freestyled. [clip of Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow] Even your lamest, most sellout track will switch things up several times. Todd: Young MC does not do that.

Young MC: Movie's showin' so you're goin'

Could care less about the five you're blowin'

Todd (VO): His rhyme scheme is so nailed on it may as well [image of Shakespeare's Sonnet 20] be a sonnet. Every couplet is AA, then BB, or sometimes BBB, ending...

Todd: ...on the exact same beat every single time.

Todd (VO): It's as steady as a metronome. And the effect is very Dr Seuss-y, especially because he uses really rhyming dictionary rhymes.

Young MC: She's dressed in yellow, she says "Hello,

Come sit next to me, you fine fellow"

Todd (VO): And I don't mean they're basic. Like, these are rhymes I have never heard used by anybody.

Young MC: You say "neato", check your libido

And roll to the church in your new tuxedo

Todd (VO): "Libido" with "tuxedo".

Todd: Brilliant.

Todd (VO): Young MC's lyricism goes some weird places.

Todd: Like... like, take this line.

Young MC: From frustration, first inclination

Is to become a monk and leave the situation

But every dark tunnel has a light of hope

So don't hang yourself with a celibate rope

Todd (VO): I have been fascinated for years with the celibate rope.

Todd: What imagery. What a metaphor. [image of rope with creepy drone playing underneath] I imagine it like a cursed artefact that someone found in a tomb somewhere. "Beware, all those who come near, [cuts away to Todd holding a rope] of the celibate rope! It curses thee with involuntary celibacy!" [Todd tosses rope away] Too many people have been touched by this one.

Todd (VO): And just the scenarios he describes are wild. This is the first place he tells you to bust a move.

Young MC: Next day's function, high class luncheon

Food is served and you're stone cold munchin'

Todd (VO): Right, this doesn't look like a high-class luncheon to me. And I'm not sure why people would be dancing at a classy function anyway.

Todd (VO): Or this line, the famous one...

Todd (VO): ...about the wedding.

Young MC: Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry

In five days from now he's gonna marry

He's hoping you can make it there if you can

'Cuz in the ceremony you'll be the best man

Todd: [resting his thumb and finger on the bridge of his nose] Just "Harry" would have been fine. Todd (VO): But he's gotta keep the rhyme pattern going, so Harry now has a brother Larry. And it just throws everything out of whack.

Young MC: Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry

Todd (VO): This line has puzzled people for decades 'cause it just makes no sense.

Todd: Why would you be Larry's best man?

Todd (VO): You're Harry's best friend, Not Larry. Do you even know Larry? Why wouldn't Larry make his brother Harry the best man?

Todd: And the answer to that is... [sighs] Look, Harry and Larry aren't really talking right now. Some shit went do-It's just family drama, it's nothing you need to get involved with. You probably shouldn't have even agreed to be the best man, but, you know, Larry doesn't really have any guy friends, so it's a whole minefield, but someone had to do it. The real worry's if Harry drinks too much at the reception 'cause he'll probably start something and it'll be a mess and someone's gonna have to keep an eye on him during that. Don't even get me started on trying to plan the bachelor party, jeez. What were we talking about?

Todd (VO): Like, the whole song's like that, weird rhymes making weird lines.

Young MC: ...down just to start the wedding

And there's one more girl you won't be getting

So you start thinkin' then you start blinking

A bridesmaid looks and thinks that you're winking

Todd (VO): I think he means you're blinking back tears, I guess, and some girl thinks you're making a pass at her by crying, but the song moves too fast for you to really think about any of it. And, regardless of any weird lyrics, the song still absolutely kills. Todd: See, "Bust a Move" strikes me as the last great old-school hip-hop song.

Clip of Sugarhill Gang - "Rapper's Delight"

Todd (VO): And to be clear by "old-school" we mean, like, the very first wave of hip-hop from the early '80s where it was still just an offshoot of disco, you know, it's dance music, the songs went on forever, they were all about partying, they were upbeat and fun. [clip of Run-DMC - "Rock Box"] And in the mid-'80s it became what we called golden-age hip-hop where rappers started using harder [clip of LL Cool J - "I'm Bad"] beats, bragging about their skills, writing actual structured singles. [clip of live performance of "Bust a Move] So "Bust a Move" is technically not old-school...

Todd: ...'cause, you know, it's not 40 minutes long...

Todd (VO): ...but it has that old-school vibe, it's danceable, it's fun, it's not complicated, there's no ego, you don't have to think too hard about it.

Crystal Blake: Yeah, yeah, yeah

Young MC: Just bust a move

Todd (VO): But as good as it is, you can tell why Young MC could not follow it up. He wasn't a bad MC, but he wasn't one with a ton of personality. [clip of "Wild Thing" by...] Tone Loc just had to say one word and he was the coolest man alive. [clip of Rap Mania performance by...] Young MC wrote about guys struggling to get laid, he's not even writing about himself. His only hit was in the second person. I have listened to this song so many times and yet afterwards...

Todd: ...I just have no idea who he is.

The failed follow-up

Todd: Young MC released one truly great follow-up to "Bust a Move" in 1990. And naturally, it never charted. But I really love it so I'm gonna play it for you now in its entirety. Here we go.

Clip of Taco Bell commercial

Young MC: Hello, I'm Young MC with a story to tell

I just got a free cup from Taco Bell

[brief clip of Todd dancing] And MTV makes the whole thing fun

Buy a giant sized Pepsi and you'll get one

Four cups in all, so don't stand still

And if you have an empty cup you get a free refill

Todd (VO): What a year 1990 was. Todd: I love that this exists.

Young MC: Taco Bell only has them for a limited time

That's why I'm coming to you with a limited rhyme

To get these cups, you gotta place your order

So take my advice, you better run for the border

Todd: 30 seconds ago that did not exist in your life and now it does. [thumbs up] You're welcome.

Clip of Pepsi commercial

Todd (VO): He did a Pepsi can commercial earlier that year too.

Young MC: Pick up Pepsi in these hype receptacles

Todd (VO): But that one's not as... Todd: ...good, you can skip that one.

Clip of "Principal's Office"

Don Lonie: Now normally, if I can help it, I don't spend a lot of time in a principal's office.

Todd (VO): Outside of the promotional beverage container genre, he also released some real music. The actual song he released that year was called "Principal's Office". It's about actin' out in class, getting sent to the principal's office, you know, it's like a bunch of funny stories.

Young MC: When I get to the room I hear the teacher say

"Mr Young, I'm happy that you could join us today"

Todd (VO): [sighs] Look, Young MC says he wasn't trying to copy anyone else's style, but... Todd: ...this is just "Parents Just Don't Understand" in high school.

Young MC: The teacher got upset and she screamed out "No

It's off to the principal's office you go"

Todd: [rapping] Take it from me, teachers just don't understand.

Clip of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince -...

Todd (VO): I don't even like "Parents Just Don't Understand", I don't think it's aged very well at all. I've never liked these story rap songs with no hook, and... Todd: ..."Principal's Office" does not establish Young MC as someone with the charisma of a Will Smith.

Clip of "Principal's Office"

Young MC: Picked up my tray to have Thursday's lunch

And when I tried the apple sauce, I heard a crunch

Todd (VO): These stories aren't funny. They're not even relatable, they're just boring. [clip of "Parents Just Don't Understand"] At least The Fresh Prince kidnapped a 12-year-old and got arrested. That actually happens, go back and relisten to that song. [back to "Principal's Office"] Just very kiddie and not much fun to listen to. But it did crack the top 40, barely. [image of 1990 MTV Video Music Awards logo] It even got nominated for an MTV Award in 1990. [image of MC Hammer winning award] It lost to "U Can't Touch This", which... Todd: ...is probably correct.

Clip of "I Come Off"

Todd (VO): He released one more single that year. I didn't really feel it, I don't like that '80s synth bass. Todd: If you want my opinion, the real standout on that record is "Know How".

Clip of "Know How"

Young MC: ...the busiest rhymes ever made by man

Are goin' into this mic, written by this hand

Are comin' out of this mouth, made by this tongue

I'll tell you now my name, my name is Young

But so you think that it's your destiny to get the best of me

Todd (VO): I mean, that's the one where he really starts showing some skills. [clip of Baby Driver] And I guess someone agreed because it popped up later on the Baby Driver soundtrack. [clip of...] He also won an American Music Award that year. Clearly...

Todd: ...things were lookin' up.

Did he ever do anything else?

Clip of "That's the Way Love Goes"

Todd (VO): Okay, so it's 1991. The times are changing. It is no longer the '80s and Tone Loc is no longer down with the ladies. Todd: Uh, I'm not sure what killed Young MC's career. He had the big hit, he jumped to a big label...

Live clip of MC Hammer

Todd (VO): ...and you'd think with the explosion of Hammer and Ice, the market was now wide open, you'd think there'd be a big wide door for a proven hitmaker like Young MC but that didn't happen. Todd: I think what might have happened is that in 1990, like...

Clip of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - "Summertime"

Todd (VO): ...yes, we realised that hip-hop could go pop and go multi-bajillion times platinum, but we realised that hip-hop also [clip of Vanilla Ice - "Play That Funky Music"] could become lame, which was a concept that hadn't really existed before then. [clip of Heavy D and the Boyz featuring Aaron Hall - "Now That We Found Love"] But pop-rap still persisted for quite a bit before gangsta rap took over. Todd: So the other possibility's that Young MC wasn't good enough an MC.

Clip of "That's the Way Love Goes"

Todd (VO): He released many singles from several records over the next 10 years, I listened to them, most of them I immediately forgot.

Clip of "Keep It In Your Pants"

Todd (VO): I do wanna shout out this one from his second album, it's called "Keep It In Your Pants".

Young MC: So you'd better know for sure about the girl before you take a chance

And for now you better keep it in your pants

Todd (VO): It's just kinda blowing me away that during my childhood, rappers would just casually drop songs about not fucking, 'cause we were living through a deadly sex epidemic.

Young MC: Maybe Tom, Dick, Harry, Steven, Joe and Barry

John, Paul, George, Ringo, Curly, Moe and Larry

Did it, got with it, smooth hit it

Todd (VO): I'm just amazed that this song exists. Like, he's writing about sex...

Todd: ...I mean, not having sex, but still, explicitly about sex...

Todd (VO): ...on what looks like the set of a kids' game show!

Todd: That kind of kid-friendly positivity is not something we'd want in hip-hop much longer.

Clip of "That's the Way Love Goes"

Todd (VO): Other than that, his career is mostly interesting in that you can watch him trying in vain to keep up with the times. Here he is in 1991 trying to sound like C+C Music Factory.

Clip of "What's the Flavor?"

Todd (VO): Here he is in 1993 trying to sound like Naughty by Nature.

Young MC: (What's the flavor, what's the flavor) Now what you say

(What's the flavor, what's the flavor) Now what you say

Todd (VO): I mean, this isn't bad, but, you know, knowing what I know about him, him trying to sell himself as a gangster, no, I don't buy it. And I'm guessing no one else did either.

Clip of "On and Poppin'"

Young MC: It's on and poppin'

And on and poppin'

Todd (VO): Here he is in 1997 trying to sound like, uh... I dunno, kinda sounds a bit like...

Clip of...

Todd (VO): ...Coolio's "1, 2, 3, 4".

Coolio: It's Coolio with the flow back in your ear

Clip of "On and Poppin'"

Young MC: My boy says "Yo Young, help me get inside"

Todd (VO): And for what it's worth, anyone trying to tell me that Young MC is...

Todd: ...not a one-hit-wonder 'cause [single cover art for...] of "Principal's Office", "It [shot of Billboard Hot 100, showing "Principal's Office" at number 34] broke the top 40, it's a second hit!" Yeah, okay...

Todd (VO): ...this song right here is from the album [shot of album cover for...] Return of the 1 Hit Wonder, so...

Todd: ...I consider that pretty definitive.

Clip of Young MC interview

Todd (VO): Young MC blames these songs' failure on lack of promotional support. [clip of hip-hop video editor's note: don't know this one] Yeah, so much changed in rap music so fast I bet the label probably wrote him off as a relic of a very different time. [clip of "Stress Test"] After 1997 he was dropped from the major labels and only self-released afterwards.

Clip of "Ain't Goin' Out Like That" with Ain't Goin' Out Like That album cover showing on screen

Todd (VO): Like this record.

Young MC: I ain't goin' out like that

I ain't goin' out like that

I ain't goin' out like that

Todd (VO): Ooh, let me tell you, the combination of that album title and that half-assed cover art is just the saddest thing I've ever seen. [brief clip of more recent Young MC interview] Young MC mostly tours the nostalgia circuit now.

Clip of Up In the Air

Todd (VO): He made a really great appearance in the movie Up In the Air. George Clooney crashes a software conference with his lady friend, Young MC is there performing "Bust a Move".

Conference DJ (Cut Chemist): ...special Alpha Tech guest, Young MC!

Young MC: This here's a jam for all the fellas

Tryin' to do what those ladies tell us

Todd (VO): Young MC is just, like, the perfect person to be there because 1, he's the only person who would be plausibly playing a show that forty-something office workers would get into, but B, also be the greatest date ever.

Young MC: Says she wanna dance 'cause she likes to groove

Todd (VO): "He's playing 'Bust a Move'!"

Todd: [hands in the air] WOO!

Did he deserve better?

Todd: ...Hmm.

Clip of "Bust a Move"

Todd (VO): I think the fact that he made "Bust a Move" just on its own deserves him a little more credit than he has currently, and that first record actually does have some solid tunes on it.

Todd: But he definitely never made a spot for himself in the '90s, and I can't really say anything he ever made stuck out to me.

Todd (VO): But maybe if he had had some stronger hooks, he could have been the '90s version of Flo Rida. Pop-rap never goes away. So yeah, you know what? Let's give it up for the man.

Todd: The next time a girlie runs up with something to prove, what comes next?... well, you know. Goodnight.

Gets up and leaves

Video ends

Closing Tag Song: "Bust a Move" - William Shatner


"Bust a Move" is owned by Delicious Vinyl Records

This video is owned by me


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