Waddup y’all, it’s your man Skyzoo, back for day 3 of my guest blogging gig. So for the third entry, I figured I’d break down the life and times of one of the game’s most prominent factors and the road it’s traveled thus far; the music video show. As hip hop fans, we always find a way to get what we want. Since day one, when dudes would set up in the park and plug into the light poles (prospect park waddup!), the deejays at hand would be surrounded by fans, admirers, etc, all off the strength of word of mouth. When radio stations only played hip hop for an hour on the late night, you pulled out a TDK and taped that hour. When the project basements were the only place that would let you get away with throwing a hip hop party, the basements became flooded immediately. Even nowadays with downloadable mixtapes and their instant access, Moral of the story, we find a way to get our fix.
Visuals are no different, and since the creation of videos, we’ve always had our avenues to get them no matter what. A dope video can easily make a song, an album, even an artist as a whole. At the same time, videos can (and have) easily broken careers in half. The wrong video can completely f**k up how you’re perceived. As a vehicle of getting the vids from points A to B, the concept of a hip hop video show was birthed in the early 80’s to heavy fan fare and even more skepticism. The idea of a tv show airing songs that you heard on the radio, with no added or changing elements, seemed simple and un-needed to say the least.
What hip hop video shows accomplished however, was bringing different types of living into homes it would’ve never existed in otherwise. A kid in Minnesota could now get a feel for the Bronx off of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “The Message.” Queens now existed in Kansas when Run DMC’s “My Adidas” came on. Compton was a reality in Seattle when NWA dropped “Express Yourself.” Lines became blurred, fans became a lighter shade, crowds sold out quicker, and hip hop became undeniable.
I grew up in Brooklyn NY, so for me, Video Music Box was everything. My Saturday mornings were locked on channel 25. I was a late bloomer with cable (if you from the ‘jects you understand), so I only saw videos on Saturdays from 12pm-1pm. When I did get cable in the crib, I found Yo MTV Raps and Rap City, as well as a few random hip hop looks on MTV’s daytime playlist and BET’s Video Soul, depending on what artist it was. I grew up as a fan of all of those shows; I remember the last episode of Yo MTV Raps with the all star cipher, I remember when “Protect Your Neck” was ONLY played on Video Music Box, I remember when The Box came along and convinced you to PAY $2 for videos that you just watched for free, I remember it all. As the shows came and went, it’s dope to see Video Music Box is still around, through all of the digital advancements, viewer control, etc, Ralph McDaniels has found a way to stay afloat regardless. The one show that did hurt to see leave though, to me, was Rap City. Aww man. SMH.
Rap City seemed like the end all be all for hip hop in the 80’s and 90’s, and by the ealry 2000’s it pretty much stood alone as far as it’s place of importance nationwide. Whether it was Big Lez, Joe Clair, Big Tigger, Mad Linx, Q45, or any of the other hosts before them, it didn’t matter to me, as long as Rap City was on, we was straight in my hood. The thing that made Rap City matter so much was the way it walked the line. You saw your Common Sense videos right along with your UGK videos, your Pharcyde’s with your Redman’s, your De La Soul’s with your 2pac’s, your Mos Def’s with your Mase’s, it all made sense. The balance was there, and it gave you everything that hip hop was at that moment. From the interaction between the hosts and the viewers, to the personality they showed, to the fact that all the hosts chosen seemed like true hip hop heads who could appreciate any style of the game, Rap City was easily FTW.
The best part about the show though, hands down, was and always will be the booth. When the clock hit about 5:45, you knew it was about to go down (whether good or bad). Seeing who would hit the booth the hardest was the main attraction of the show to me. As a high schooler, all I wanted to do was get on so that I could be featured on Rap City and rock the booth (I always wanted it to play out where they threw on Ghostface’s “Daytona 500″ beat for me to body. Anyone who went to school with me knows what I used to do to that beat). I knew that if I got to get in that booth, it was lights out. To me, the booth was a stamp of approval. The show as a whole was a certification of being a part of the culture in the same light you saw your heroes in. No matter what happened within hip hop and the politics that came with it, Rap City was ours.
In the age of dance crazes, YouTube, and the “I can do that too” mantra, I guess it was only a matter of time before something like Rap City faded away. Keeping up with a climate that kinda doesn’t know when it’s coming or going, you pretty much have everything stacked against you. Shouts to all the hip hop video shows still supporting, ie: Video Music Box, Sucker Free Sundays, Fuse’s Hip Hop Countdown, Video City, and of course The Deal (the continuation of Rap City). I commend you all for keeping the flag up high, or at least trying to do your part, as we need all the help we can get. The internet is a marvelous tool that even I’ve obviously used to my advantage, but as the saying goes, there’s no pro without a con.
So here’s to Rap City, and all the other dope a** hip hop video shows we grew up on, and shouts to WorldStar, Vlad TV, and the new generation video “shows.” If we can figure out a way to incorporate the essence of the booth to one of these web movements, we might be aiight.
In conclusion, my video for “The Beautiful Decay” is debuting today. Check for it on your fave blog/video site/etc now, and hopefully on one of the aforementioned remaining video shows in the next few weeks. Directed by the super talented Artemus Jenkins, I’m sure it’s something Rap City would’ve been proud of. Signing off, I’ll see yall here tomorrow with day 4 of my guest blogging. Holla—Skyzoo