In the English language, a small number of multi-volume chronicles of history tower above all others: Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire; Robert Caro’s biographies of LBJ; and Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s “History of Rap.”
On Wednesday night's Tonight Show, they delivered the long-awaited sixth volume of their evolving medley covering hip-hop in its entirety. Featuring old-school classics like Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” and Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” as well as some newer hits like Jay Z and Kanye’s “Otis” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “History of Rap 6” brought the house down, as per usual. With one exception: Fallon busts into a faithful but ill-advised rendition of Snow’s “Informer,” for which Timberlake and The Roots appropriately chide him.
Six volumes in, and one wonders if their goal of a comprehensive history of rap music is even possible. However, it’s always fun to watch them try.