YO! MTV RAPS: Love of Hip-Hop

The second coming of Yo! MTV Raps might nod to “better” days on the Hip-Hop scene, but its potential influence on multiple generations of artists and lovers today point to a brighter future.

Words: Brad Clarke

Everyone loves a comeback, especially when it’s the return of a classic show that changed the scope of music and brought Hip-Hop front and center to television sets across the nation. Yup, Yo! MTV Raps is back. After a 16-year hiatus, MTV2 has resurrected the iconic show for a special dubbed, Yo! MTV Raps Classic Cuts.

The original series aired from August 1988-1995 creating a shockwave that the music industry still feels to this day. I can remember coming home from school and posting up in front of the tv ready to watch the newest videos from my favorite rappers. It was the Golden Era of Hip-Hop and Yo! MTV Raps was a front row seat to the show. For many it was a first taste of Hip-Hop music and its vibrant culture. “My favorite Yo! moment was definitely… Wow. So many. I loved when Fab 5 first interviewed Biggie, Craig Mack and Puff Daddy at the Bad Boy office,” said Hip-Hop cultural ambassador Shaheem Reid. “I was and still am a tremendous fan of Bad Boy and all they mean to Hip-Hop, especially in NY. So seeing the three of them with Fab, you knew a special era was about to happen. I also have to mention Grand Puba and Mary J. [Blige] performing ‘What’s The 411.’ So many groundbreaking moments.”

Artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. and Rakim, Geto Boys, Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes and Naughty by Nature invaded the living rooms of suburban households throughout the country and then around the world. For Reid, whose work over the ten plus years as a correspondent and senior writer at MTV have fatefully lead him to becoming an integral part of Yo!‘s revival, the choice to participate in its current iteration was a “no-brainer”. “The people at MTV2, I think they recognized my passion and dedication to elevating and preserving the culture,” he confided. “They also knew I’m one of the top writers and a very well connected individual when it comes to the artists and labels. So it made perfect sense to reach out when they were assembling the team. Ed Lover, Dr. Dre and Fab 5 Freddy all inspired me to do what I’m doing now…”

Rahman Ali Bugg is another face behind the curtain. Not only a fan, Bugg began his professional career on the show as an intern in the summer of 1993, and every summer thereafter until Yo! went off air. Having worked very closely with the original squad, when it came time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show in 2008, Bugg was called upon as Supervising Producer for a series of specials to commemorate the event. So it comes as no surprise that he is back in the fold Sucker Free producer Tee Smith to produce Classic Cuts. “Yo! MTV Raps is a part of my personal and professional history and/or legacy for that matter, so it makes me feel proud as well as excited and of course elated that people can get a chance to feel the vibe and energy that Yo! brought to world culture as well as to me,” Bugg said.

The Yo! MTV Raps Classic Cuts specials will be a retrospective that celebrates and pays homage to the iconic show. Each episode will focus around three classic videos/songs from the Yo! MTV Raps era. Songs will be dissected and explored in interviews with the artist about the making of the song and the video. You’ll get to hear first-hand why the artist thinks a song made such an impact on a generation. The special will also feature discussions with Rap icons and new school heads, bringing personal experiences of when they first heard a track and how it influenced their lives and careers. Former hosts Fab 5 Freddy, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre will also be on board flashing back to interviews, performances and highlights from the original show, while Reid and others like Sway Calloway uncover the stories behind some of Yo!‘s best episodes.

“It honestly feels like [having Yo! back on air] re-energizes the culture of Hip-Hop to a degree, so that it becomes a well-rounded culture not stuck so much on the right now of the world,” Bugg revealed. “Because we learned so many lessons from those early eras, it would be a travesty to me to forget and neglect that era and other facets of early Hip-Hop because it may mean that the culture loses some of its meaning and ultimate relevance if it does.”

Now that Hip-Hop is the dominant force in music, it’s important to see how it got there. Looking back at legendary Hip-Hop tracks gives us the blueprint of how Rap culture came to be. Without a doubt, Yo! MTV Raps is one of the most influential brands that has shaped and guided Hip-Hop music. Personally, I’m interested in hearing some of the new school cats get interviewed, young rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa, which apparently, the show makes good on effort. “One of the things that this show does is we don’t just have the legends of Hip-Hop participating,” Reid explains. “We have some of the younger icons such as a [DJ] Khaled or a Young Jeezy along with up and coming superstars like c, Tyga, Meek Mill and Mac Miller. Some of these guys weren’t even alive when some of the videos dropped, but you’d be surprised how much they know. That’s a reflection of some of our audience as well.” He cites the Naughty By Nature’s classic record “O.P.P.” as an example: “O.P.P.” came out in 1991, but if you ask any 19-year old do they know the song’s chorus, hell yeah they know it. Classic songs and videos transcend time.”

The second installment of the special will air on MTV2 February 19th at 10pm/9c and will focus on three more of Hip-Hop’s greatest gems: Naughty by Nature’s “O.P.P.”, Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton”. With a line-up like that and commentary from the industry’s top aficionados, this will be one hell of a trip down memory lane.

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