A New Ice Cream Truck Jingle, Created by Wu-Tang Clan Rapper RZA
The anticipation of hearing and chasing down an ice cream truck is a nostalgic American pastime, bringing joy to kids on a sweltering afternoon. But beneath the veneer of this seemingly innocent treat lies extremely racist origins: The truck’s familiar jingle, anonymized by a cheery instrumental melody, is based on “Turkey in the Straw,” a 19th-century folk song with British and Irish roots. As the tune made its way to the U.S., it was frequently played by blackface actors in minstrel shows—with mocking lyrics and racial slurs that have been hidden, but not forgotten, over time. In 1916, Columbia Records even released a recorded version of the song, written by actor Harry C. Browne, titled, “N*gger Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!,” a disturbing slice of American history that TikTok-er Vanessa Blackwell resurfaced earlier this summer in a viral post.
Offering a sorely needed replacement, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA recently partnered with the ice cream maker Good Humor to create a brand-new jingle for a new era—one that, at long last, puts that problematic tune to rest. “We wanted to make a melody that includes all communities, that’s good for every driver, every kid,” RZA said in a video announcing the project. “I assure you that this one is made with love.” Good Humor released the track for free, urging all ice-cream truck drivers to nix the traditional one. Here’s hoping Mister Softee takes note.