Today In Hip-Hop: ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ Premieres

On this day, August 6, in hip-hop history…


1988: During the 1980s, the cultural landscape of MTV was dramatically different and we are not talking about a severe lack of pregnancy-based reality programming the channel feeds us today. For artists of color, it was often difficult if not impossible to get their videos or music played on the cable channel. You practically had to radiate the nuclear heat of an exploding supernova for MTV to be bothered to play your music. If you were not Michael Jackson, Prince or had obvious rock influences, you were unwanted on the station. And if you were hip-hop? Forget it. You were persona non grata. Everything changed in the summer of 1988 when Yo! MTV Raps debuted on the air.

The brainchild of a pushy intern by the name of Ted Demme, Yo! MTV Raps was an instant senstation for the network becoming one of highest-rated programs in the history of the cable channel. After a small trial-run on the fledging MTV Europe, the pilot episode of Yo! MTV Raps debuted on Saturday evening and was hosted by Run-D.M.C. and featured new videos and an interview with the DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. The success of the pilot lead the show being picked full-time on Saturdays with hip-hop pioneer, Fab 5 Freddy, hosting, doing features and interviews on location with the artists. Before long, the program expanded to a permanent weekday slot, hosted by relative newcomers, Ed Lover and Doctor Dre, who became hip-hop celebrities in their own right.

During its run, the program had many famous moments including a drive through Compton on a flatbed with N.W.A, the on-air breakup of the Leaders Of The New School and a young Tupac Shakur threatening the Hughes Brothers with violence after his firing from their film, Menace II Society. The show was a seminal moment in hip-hop, leading to greater national exposure for many of hip-hop acts and a permanent place at the table for rap music in America’s pop culture landscape. The show’s original run came to in an August 17, 1995 but the show still reverberates in history as integral development in hip-hop. To this day, fans still clamor for the return of Yo! to the airwaves.

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