I have good news, and I have great news. The good news: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back. The great news: Hip-hop tracks about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back.
The Turtles began as a gritty comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. It exploded into a multimillion dollar media franchise for kids due to a goofy animated series that began in 1987 and lasted until 1996.
That series led to three live-action movies in the '90s, another animated series (and another film) in the 2000s, scores of action figures -- I had about fifteen, and they'd wrestle my WWF guys -- and a concert tour. The Ninja Turtles have always been a musical bunch. And for each film and TV show, there is a new song about the Ninja Turtles. This week, a new one was released. We now have five turtle films and five turtle songs. Let's count them down.
"Turtle Power" -- Partners in Kryme, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Best Line: "Raphael: He's the leader of the group/ Transformed from the norm by the nuclear goop"
Worst Line: "They didn't say they'd be there in half an hour/ 'Cuz they displayed -- Turtle Power!"
This is essentially a 1980s party rap about the Turtles. It also helpfully recounts most of the plot of the first film, so you don't even have to go see the movie! (It made $201 million, so you probably did anyway.) This was actually Partners in Kryme's first single, hitting No. 13 on the Hot 100 -- and No. 1 in the UK. But it's a bold decision to make your first radio single as a hip-hop duo about a children's movie. The move did not pay off for Partners in Kryme.
(Note: I don't care that the "best line" is not accurate. Leonardo's the leader of the group, obviously, but any rhyme that includes the word "goop" is automatically great.)
"Ninja Rap" - Vanilla Ice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Best Line: None.
Worst Line: "Have you ever seen a turtle get down?/ Slammin' and jammin' to the new swing sound"
It's easy to pick on Vanilla Ice's rapping, and so let's do that: This is a crime against anyone with ears. The production is terrible, the rapping is laughable and the people in the video aren't even excited to be hanging in the same bar as the Ninja Turtles.
But watch the last 30 seconds of the video for the real treat: Vanilla telling us the makers of the film told him to make this. "They told me to write, and make it Ice," he says, "And they told me to keep it clean, for the kids and everything, which is me anyway." So we can't really put all of the blame on him. It's clear Rob Van Winkle is actually a talented person: I enjoyed his gadget reports on the Today show. (As far as that program's celebrity contributors go, he's not quite as good as Jenna Bush Hager, but much better than Chelsea Clinton.)
"Turtle Jam" - Psychedelic Dust and Loose Bruce, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
Best Line: "They kick it, they rip it straight from the underground/ Clown around in town and make you jump around"
Worst Line: "Bust a move that makes you want to groove-Uh/ Hit you so hard like a Heimlich maneuver"
This sounds like a Digital Underground knockoff, and it proves itself as one by referencing Tupac's verse in "Same Song" in the opening lines. It's better than "Ninja Rap" -- but is, by far, the most cringeworthy of any of these Ninja Turtles songs. What's a Ninja Turtles song doing referencing Goodfellas, Groucho Marx and Frankie Lymon?! Lymon had been dead for 25 years when this song came out.
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