On August 6, 1988, the first episode of YO! MTV Raps hit television. Ted Demme, the late film director behind movies like The Bet and No Cure For Cancer, created the program with the help of Peter Dougherty to breathe fresh air into the growing rap scene. It started in MTV Europe, then came to the United States a year later, with Ru-DMC hosting the pilot episode. In addition to the iconic triumvirate holding it down, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince also appeared on it. It became the highest rated MTV show at the time, signaling just how big rap music was becoming. The program would become instrumental in the genre’s growth and commanding grasp of pop culture that still endures to this day. Although the show declined in popularity and came to an end in 1995, over 1,830 episodes were created. Everyone, to this day, can name a Yo! MTV Raps moment that defined their childhood, whether from actually watching the show, or hearing it in passing in some of rap’s greatest classics (Ice Cube references the program in “Today Was A Good Day”).
It’s been a long thirty years, and look how far rap music has come. Music videos are just as important as the actual quality of the song these days, with many programs over the years, drawing inspiration from the program (such examples are Rap City and 106 & Park) to help increase the importance of said visuals. Stars such as 2Pac, Biggie, and Ice Cube were able to grow their legendary personas through the lens that the program offered. Now we look back at one of the most important shows in the history of the culture and prepare for MTV’s upcoming revival of the show.
In the meantime, check out a playlist dedicated to its memory.
Long live Yo! MTV Raps, the original hip-hop program that catapulted the culture into the mainstream world.