If you didn’t catch Fox’s sketch show In the Flow With Affion Crockett a few months ago, you’re not alone; 99.4 percent of Americans missed it. And that’s a shame, because Crockett is the first person since Weird Al Yankovic to make parody entertaining—and, more important, relevant.
It’s not that the jokey lyrics in his lampoons of popular rappers are mind-blowing, or that his impressions are a quantum leap past those of, say, Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah. It’s that the 38-year-old North Carolina native satirizes hip hop from the inside. (As a rapper himself, he’s an apt mimic of cadences and styles—Jay-Z even hired Crockett to play him in a Rocawear ad.) Just ask the fans who’ve watched his YouTube videos 43 million times and forced Fox to pay attention.
Rap, like the USA Network, is home to characters bordering on caricatures, and Crockett has a gift for finding the person behind the persona. He knows that under Russell Simmons’ blissed-out zen platitudes is the patter of a salesman. That Jay-Z’s fitted hat and chuckle mask a calculating mogul. That Drake’s awkward, doe-eyed flatness is what makes him both ridiculous and great. Maybe such nuance doesn’t fit into a network’s plan, but it’s great for comedy. And if the rumors prove true and Crockett’s show doesn’t come back, there’s always YouTube.