The Day The 90’s Began

The other day, while I was at work, I got a text from a friend of mine. He was hanging out with another friend of mine and he texted me to let me know that they were watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and that in this particular episode, a young Don Cheadle was guest starring as Will’s friend from back in Philadelphia.

Keep in mind this was at about 11:00 AM on a Wednesday. One of these two guys is a registered nurse. The other is soon to be a physical therapist. So keep that in mind next time you are thinking about doing something that could result in you getting injured.

Any who, the reason he texted me is because anyone who knows me knows that I have an irrational tendency to bring up Don Cheadle or “Hotel Rwanda” or “Hotel For Dogs” in conversations that have nothing to do with any of those things and often make people who don’t know me (or do know me) uncomfortable.

As a big-time Don Cheadle enthusiast, I could barely wait to get home and research this development. And holy cow, it did not disappoint.

So here’s a quick plot breakdown: Aunt Vivian feels bad that Will is homesick so she invites one of his friends from Philly to come out and visit. Enter Don Cheadle. Dude is totally hilarious and actually ends up making out with Hilary. I know, right? Don Cheadle! Bonkers.

So here’s a short clip from that episode. I’m never one to exaggerate, but I think it’s quite possible that in this clip, Will and Don Cheadle set the stage for the style, humor, terminology, and general sassiness of the 90’s that many of my peers remember so fondly.

*I work in journalism and I realize that after saying his name for the first time I’m only supposed to reference Don Cheadle by his last name. However, I don’t feel that this should apply to Don Cheadle and I refuse to refer to him as simply Cheadle. As far as I’m concerned, Don Cheadle might as well be one word.

Don Cheadle on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990)

Quick Points and Observations:

  • Don Cheadle’s character’s name is Ice-Tray, which is by far the best name of any character guest starring in any TV sitcom ever. It was also at the time when rappers Ice Cube and Ice-T were in the prime of their musical careers. In fact, that year Ice Cube released the record “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” which went platinum in two weeks. The next year Ice-T released “O.G. Original Gangster” which reached number nine on the Billboard charts. I think it’s safe to say that these two men owe some of their popularity to Mr. Don Cheadle.
  • Ice-Tray’s “Can’t Touch This” reference was actually super fresh. MC Hammer’s hit song was released in January of 1990 and this episode aired on October 8th of 1990. That’s just 10 months time. As I’m writing this “Call Me Maybe” was released 10 months ago.
  • Check out what they’re wearing.
  • A website called has chronicled every episode of “Fresh Prince” and the it has nine reviews of this episode. Here’s one from “user, Lostindharma”:

“A good episode but not as good as last one. I liked seeing Will’s friend from his home in Philadelphia come visit. This episode was a step forward in Hilary’s character that you see in later episodes. I think this was the first episode that showed Phillp’s appetite. He was always a big man but that part the show never will really showed much of until now. This episode also showed Geforry role in making jokes. The best part was seeing the exchange between Viv and Will. It also showed Will’s past in that he is actually smart (which they also showed in the pilot with the piano) but also liked to have fun as well. A nice episode with some good laughs.”

That was written in 2011. So if you missed the episode when it aired, and for the next 21 years, then don’t worry, Lostindharma has you covered. Also, he calls Uncle Phil “Phillip.” He’s Uncle Phil, dude.

  •  Don Cheadle was 27 years old when he filmed this.
  • Ice-Tray’s comeback to Carlton at the end is simply, “So who cares?” In the 90’s you could say un-witty things like that with enthusiasm and sassiness and you would pretty much expect a room full of laughter. I honestly think I could have said “Let go of my Eggo” at any point in the 90’s and people would have eaten that shit up regardless of the context. Now a days the term “Who cares” is only said in a depressingly monotonic voice while a hipster complains about something mainstream.
  • Don Cheadle was in Hotel Rwanda
  • I officially declare October 8th, 1990, the day that Don Cheadle appeared on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” to be the day the 90’s began.

-Jonny Auping

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