Home Music How ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ helped mainstream hip hop : NPR

How ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ helped mainstream hip hop : NPR

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How ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ helped mainstream hip hop : NPR

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JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

For Jeffrey Allen Townes, the primary half of 1988 was a whirlwind.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ JAZZY JEFF & THE FRESH PRINCE SONG, “THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR”)

SUMMERS: He was 23, and he and Will Smith had simply launched their second album as DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Contemporary Prince. And now they have been on tour with Run-D.M.C.

JEFFREY ALLEN TOWNES: We have been so pleased to go on stage in entrance of 20,000 folks screaming and cheering and loving this music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOWNES: An entire lot of superstars on this stage tonight.

SUMMERS: In the future, a digicam crew confirmed as much as movie them for this experimental new present on a cable channel devoted to music – MTV.

TOWNES: I bear in mind capturing that with Run-D.M.C. on Run-D.M.C.’s tour bus. We have been extra excited to hold with them than enthusiastic about this being MTV. You understand, we had no concept. You understand, this might have been the native newspaper.

SUMMERS: Producers prompted them to introduce music movies and voice some transitions.

TOWNES: There was completely no sort of a script. It was extraordinarily uncooked.

SUMMERS: Then they went again to the tour and put it out of their minds. Months later, DJ Jazzy Jeff flipped on the TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOWNES: I am DJ Jazzy Jeff.

WILL SMITH: And, yo, I am the Prince.

CLARENCE HOLMES: And I am Prepared Rock C.

TOWNES: Maintain up. Watch this. We need to let everyone know the place it is at. It is proper right here.

CLARENCE HOLMES, WILL SMITH, AND JEFFREY ALLEN TOWNES: “Yo! MTV Raps.”

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOWNES: We nearly needed to be reminded that we shot the pilot of that. And you are like, oh, man, that is once we have been on the bus with Run. You understand, that was the precise first present. Like, that was a pivotal second that we did not see at the moment.

SUMMERS: “Yo! MTV Raps” was the primary present on MTV devoted solely to hip-hop. It got here at an important time within the style’s comparatively younger life. Born out of backstage live performance footage, it might make nationwide stars of rappers whose work had been largely ignored by mainstream media. And it was constructed by a scrappy crew within the face of a skeptical company. This week, we’re celebrating 50 years of hip-hop and taking a look at a few of the key moments that helped outline it. Right this moment, the story of “Yo! MTV Raps.”

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SUMMERS: In 1988, MTV had solely been round for seven years. In its early days, rock music dominated. The very first phrases ever heard on MTV on August 1, 1981, have been…

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN LACK: Girls and gents, rock ‘n’ roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAN CHARNAS: When it began, the programmers for MTV, the individuals who selected what music movies to play, have been all veterans of rock radio from the Nineteen Seventies. And rock radio within the Nineteen Seventies had turn out to be a intentionally racially segregated affair.

SUMMERS: Dan Charnas is a hip-hop journalist and former document govt.

CHARNAS: That is the sample for the primary few years of MTV the place they’re simply not enjoying Black artists. And this isn’t simply MTV not enjoying Black artists. Black artists had been primarily ejected from pop radio as nicely. Black artists, with a purpose to get on pop radio, needed to overperform on Black radio.

SUMMERS: 1984 noticed a modest breakthrough when the primary rap video aired on MTV.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “ROCK BOX”)

RUN-D.M.C.: (Rapping) The ladies on the partitions, some on the ground with the DJ named Jay with the cuts galore…

CHARNAS: And in order that begins a sample with MTV primarily programming one rap video per yr for the following three, 4 years. So it was “Rock Field” by Run-D.M.C. in ’84. Then it was “King Of Rock” by Run-D.M.C. in 1985.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “KING OF ROCK”)

RUN-D.M.C.: (Rapping) They known as us and mentioned we’re getting iller. There is no one chiller. It is not Michael Jackson, and this isn’t “Thriller”…

CHARNAS: Then it was “Stroll This Means” by Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith in 1986. You see the sample right here, proper? It’s a must to do that overly performative rock guitar factor with a purpose to achieve success in MTV.

SUMMERS: By the late ’80s, hip-hop’s rise was more durable to disregard, however MTV executives nonetheless hadn’t greenlit a hip-hop present.

JEN CHANEY: I feel a few of them considered hip-hop as form of a fad, one thing that was only a pattern that was going to come back and go. And clearly, they have been lifeless fallacious about that.

SUMMERS: Jen Chaney is a TV critic for Vulture. The shortage of curiosity from MTV’s management did not imply hip-hop did not have champions on the community.

CHANEY: There have been two guys who labored at MTV, Peter Doherty and Ted Demme. They have been big hip-hop followers, they usually stored saying, we have to have a present that is nearly hip-hop. And so they simply stored beating the drum about it till lastly somebody’s like, OK, make an episode. Let’s examine the way it goes.

SUMMERS: That episode can be in contrast to something MTV had ever aired earlier than.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “YO! MTV RAPS”)

JASON WILLIAM MIZELL: Yo, what’s up? I am Jam Grasp Jay. That is Run-D.M.C., and welcome to “Yo! MTV Raps” present.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yo, we preparing…

SUMMERS: There was no host and no studio. Run-D.M.C. launched the primary video on stage in entrance of hundreds of followers.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “YO! MTV RAPS”)

MIZELL: We going to begin the showcase with Eric B. & Rakim. “Observe The Chief.”

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Phrase.

MIZELL: Make some noise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “FOLLOW THE LEADER”)

ERIC B & RAKIM: (Rapping) Rakim’ll say…

SUMMERS: From the tour bus, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Contemporary Prince launched their very own video. Public Enemy made an look in a while.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FLAVOR FLAV: My identify is Taste Flav.

CHUCK D: And I am Chuck D, and we would like you to take a look at a few of the new up-and-coming rappers that is able to rock the home.

FLAVOR FLAV: That is proper. Test this out, boy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SALT-N-PEPA SONG, “PUSH IT! (TMW REMIX)”)

SUMMERS: The pilot lastly aired on August 6, 1988, and the scores have been decisive.

CHANEY: The scores level was, like, a 9 or a ten. And to place that into context, a community factor at the moment would have been, like, a 2.0. Like, it was off-the-charts rapid excessive curiosity.

SUMMERS: The producers did not look again. They acquired a number, the graffiti artist and renaissance man Fab 5 Freddy, and made it a weekly present. However they did not lose the experimental type.

MOSES EDINBOROUGH: We had a saying – [expletive] continuity and break all the foundations. That was the angle.

SUMMERS: Moses Edinborough was a director and producer on the present.

EDINBOROUGH: Fab 5 Freddy was the host. He did not need to be within the studio just like the common MTV DJs. He wished to be on the bottom the place it is taking place, and that was distinctive on the time for tv.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “YO! MTV RAPS”)

FAB 5 FREDDY: Yeah. Welcome again to “Yo! MTV Raps.” I am nonetheless chilly cooling (ph) in Cali with N.W.A. and my man Eazy-E, and we nonetheless in Compton at a – on the…

EDINBOROUGH: We’d attempt our greatest to be simply, like, a fly on the wall. If we went out to the West Coast and frolicked with N.W.A., we weren’t attempting to vary them or have them do something that they would not have already accomplished. We simply wished to be part of their setting.

SUMMERS: Ultimately, “Yo! MTV Raps” did turn out to be a day by day present in a studio, airing within the afternoons proper as youngsters acquired off college – a televised artery into nationwide teen tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “YO! MTV RAPS”)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: On “Yo! MTV Raps” reside. You understand what I am saying? You understand what I am saying? We do not do that nowhere else however right here. You understand what I am saying? So examine me out although.

TOWNES: When “Yo! MTV” got here out and I went to my household reunion, there was any individual with a haircut identical to mine. There was any individual with sneakers identical to mine.

SUMMERS: That is DJ Jazzy Jeff once more.

TOWNES: Like, that is making the enjoying subject fully even now as a result of you did not have one thing particular in New York that you simply could not have in Virginia now. And to me, all of that began with MTV.

SUMMERS: “Yo! MTV Raps” can be on the air for the following seven years till August 1995 after the community had began to deemphasize music movies. For DJ Jazzy Jeff, these years have been essential for the legitimization of hip-hop, the way forward for which had felt so unsure when he’d helped shoot that pilot episode in 1988.

TOWNES: I all the time really feel like that point was a really pivotal second in hip-hop that – it may have fell on both facet of the coin. And firms have been attempting to determine, do I must get into the hip-hop enterprise, you already know? Is that this one thing that is even going to be right here within the subsequent three, 4 years? After which I bear in mind once you began to say – you already know what? – I feel we’re OK. I feel we’ll be right here.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SUMMERS: Tomorrow, we’ll proceed our collection celebrating 50 years of hip-hop. We’re headed to Atlanta circa 2003 to see the delivery of lure music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content might not be in its ultimate kind and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability might range. The authoritative document of NPR’s programming is the audio document.

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