I finally caught an episode of Hip Hop Squares. It’s not a show about hip-hop posers or wannabes. It’s a hip-hop game show that recently moved from MTV2 to VH1. Hip Hop Squares could be called a satire of the original Celebrity Squares with an urban twist. It includes elements of tic tac toe, true or false, and trivia that mixes pop culture minutia like “Is Amber Rose’s butt real?” with serious inquiries about U.S. history. Ice Cube is the executive producer and leverages his standing as an industry OG to keep a rotating door of celebrities as contestants and participants.
Hip Hop Squares is certainly an outlier in the game show landscape. However, it is just one example of the kind of changes we’ve been seeing in the genre lately. Consider the changes to Family Feud since Steve Harvey took over as the host of the show. Not only have the contestants and polls been more culturally diverse, but Harvey’s banter reflects a frank comedic style that is closely tied to Black culture. NBC is preparing to air its second season of a new game show called The Wall. It is executive produced by NBA player LeBron James and often features contestants from various racial and socio-economic backgrounds. The show boasts that it “changes people’s lives.” With $12 million on the line each episode, I don't doubt it.
Hip Hop Squares certainly isn’t putting that much money on the line for correctly guessing what Khloé Kardashian uses to tighten her vaginal walls (an actual trivia question). And the real-life people who receive the money have to rely on a designated celebrity representative to bring home the bacon. Which is unfortunate, because seeing as we're accustomed to having information about celebrities at our fingertips, millennial hip-hop fans are already at an advantage. Instead, what’s most refreshing about Hip Hop Squares is that it finally includes young people, often people of color, as a community invested enough in pop culture to compete for cash. This isn’t your mama’s trivia, because these contestants are not your mama.
Ultimately, Hip Hop Squares is another way for us to watch our favorite celebrities in candid moments. However, it is also another example of a changing game show landscape that is leaning toward inclusivity, just like the rest of the the television industry.