While hip-hop music faced an uphill struggle to make inroads into white mainstream culture, there was one part of the unhip hegemony that embraced “street music” with unbridled, mercenary passion — comedic hacks looking some of that sweet novelty record dough.
It was the tire fire of 1980s mimetic trends, with a far-ranging stink and a steady burn that stubbornly refused to gutter out. Every morning zoo, every episode of Dr. Demento, every cheapjack commercial for a local muffler repair service was lousy with rapping grannies, rapping Ronnies, or other slices of untoasted Wonder Bread announcing their names and that they’d arrived to make a declaration.
In keeping with the tradition of neutering by appropriation, most of these spoofs bore little resemblance to the source material. What passed for “flow” amounted to little more than a monologue laid over canned sound effects and the familiar handiwork of a Casio keyboard’s demo button. It was trite and banal and reductive, but managed to successfully sustain itself on the brackish currents of novelty and topicality…
…and none moreso than “Hambo,” the Rapping Rambo.
It was the year that gave us King of Rock, Space Is the Place and UTFO’s first LP, but Hambo is the one got the coveted paid cover placement in Billboard.
Hambo: the Stallone parody that couldn’t even manage to clear the exceedingly low bar for Stallone parodies in 1985.
Seriously, the kid at my junior high lunch table who wore the same Survivor t-shirt to school every day had a funnier Stallone impression…and it entirely consisted of him slurring “duuuuh” in a Rocky Balboa voice. (Looking back on it, what the rest of my tablemates assumed was a Stallone impression may have been the unfortunate side effects of huffing paint thinner with a dank weed chaser.)