Last night, word hit the Internet that Chris Kelly, aka “Mac Daddy” of 90s hit-making kid rap duo Kris Kross, had died of a “possible drug overdose” at age 34. That is super sad, and way too young. Kind of chilling really, for 90s kids who remember them as a primary sign of hip-hop’s full, final immersion into popular culture. The bloom of their “Jump Around” fame was so long ago that it’s surreal to think of Kelly dying so young 20 years later. Though they hadn’t released a record since 1996, Kelly had been recently visible, performing with Jay-Z and Usher at a So So Def Records anniversary show just this year.
The thing most seared into my brain about Kriss Kross is the heavy rotation commercial they did for Sprite in 1993. I don’t mean to diminish the duo by saying that. They were actually fine rappers in retrospect, especially given all the “Lil’ ” kid rappers that came along in their wake. But I know every word of that ad. I remember feeling like I was having a stroke in the middle of a work day a few years ago when, triggered by nothing, it came flooding back to me starting with “Tick tock you don’t stop, you put a can in your hand and just pop the top…” and running complete to the end. I wasn’t even drinking soda!
I’m guessing I saw it most on Fox, which in its pre-American Idol adolescence had a more focused appeal to young and minority viewers. I definitely saw it a billion times on breaks during The Simpsons and In Living Color. It was an incidental, yet really significant sign that hip-hop had taken over the mantle of commercial youth music, even in the midst of rock n’ roll’s supposed last great moment of wider significance. I don’t want to trick anyone into thinking a lemon-lime soda jingle is high art, because it makes me sorta sad and nostalgic. But I’ve seen hundreds of rap-themed commercials since then, and I can’t remember any of them.
Watch it below, start singing along after word one…