Yo! MTV Raps
Also known asYo!
Created byTed Demme and Peter Dougherty
Directed by
Presented by
Theme music composer
  • Nigel Cox-Hagen
  • Beau Tardy
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes1,838
  • Jac Benson II
  • Todd 1
  • Ted Demme
  • Theron "Tee Smif" Smith (Classic Cuts 2011)
CinematographyJeff Muhlstock
  • Rob Ortiz
  • Glenn Lazzaro
  • Rosanna Herrick
Running time60 minutes (including commercials)
Production companies
  • Revival series:
  • HollandWest Productions
  • Clockwork Post
  • MTV Entertainment Studios
Original release
ReleaseAugust 6, 1988 (1988-08-06) –
August 17, 1995 (1995-08-17)
ReleaseMay 24 (2022-05-24) –
July 12, 2022 (2022-07-12)

Yo! MTV Raps was an American two-hour television music video program, which first aired on MTV Europe from 1987 to mid-90s and on MTV US from August 1988 to August 1995. The American version of the program (created by Ted Demme and Peter Dougherty) was the first hip hop music show on the network, and was based on the original MTV Europe show, which first aired one year before the American version. Yo! MTV Raps produced a mix of rap videos, interviews with rap stars, live in-studio performances (on Fridays), and comedy. The show also yielded a Brazilian version called Yo! MTV and broadcast by MTV Brasil from 1990 to 2005.


The U.S. version was originally hosted by Fab 5 Freddy. Later, the show's main host was Doctor Dré and Demme's high school friend, Ed Lover who both hosted together on weekdays. Soon they were joined by Doctor Dre's Original Concept group member T Money.[1] Fab 5 Freddy proceeded to host on weekends. The original line-up of the show, starring only Fab as the host, premiered on MTV on August 6, 1988.

On the weekday version dubbed, Yo! MTV Raps Today (which debuted on March 13, 1989), Ed Lover created his own dance called the Ed Lover Dance (which was typically featured on Wednesdays) that became somewhat popular in the 1990s. The Ed Lover Dance was performed to the track "The 900 Number" by The 45 King.


In 1987, French journalist and producer Sophie Bramly developed and hosted the program Yo! for the then-nascent MTV Europe, with Afrika Bambaataa as the first guest. Later N.W.A, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Ice-T, De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD or Ultramagnetic MCs were invited.[2] The year after that, Run-DMC hosted the pilot episode in the US, with DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince as the program's first guests and Eric B. & Rakim's video for the title track of the album Follow the Leader as the first video shown on the program. The pilot was one of the highest rated programs to ever air on MTV at that point, with only the Video Music Awards and Live Aid receiving greater ratings.

Shinehead's "Chain Gang" was the first video to be shown during a regular-season episode. Meanwhile, Ice-T's "High Rollers" was the first video to be played during the weekday show. The classic Yo! MTV Raps logo was created by early graffiti writer, Dr. Revolt. The animated show open was produced by Nigel Cox-Hagen and animated by Beau Tardy.

Yo! MTV Raps and the spread of hip-hop

The advent of Yo! MTV Raps in the late 1980s was crucial to spreading hip-hop around the world.[3] Through MTV Europe, MTV Asia, and MTV Latino, African-American and Latino style and sound became instantly available to millions of people across the globe, helping to create a worldwide appreciation and interest in the hip-hop scene, which is something that was celebrated on the Yo! MTV Raps 20th anniversary.[4]


Although Video Music Box is often considered the first contender, in 1989, former rival BET created competition by premiering Rap City . The show was the longest-running hip-hop program because of its 19-year run (ending in 2009). While Yo! MTV Raps', which is now discontinued, generally focused on the rap scene from the East Coast and largely popular West Coast artists, Rap City also included videos from up-and-coming underground rappers from different regions of the US.

"Down With MTV"

One of the most popular artists to be featured on Yo! MTV Raps was Naughty by Nature. When MTV started its Down With MTV advertising campaign in 1992, Naughty by Nature's smash hit "O.P.P." was used as the basis.

Censorship and declining popularity

The ratings fell after pulling Public Enemy's video "By the Time I Get to Arizona" in 1991, claiming it was too violent. Also, Yo! MTV Raps almost declined to air the video for Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man." Only after Sheri Howell, Vice President of Music and Artist Development at MTV, intervened that MTV changed their minds.

By around 1992–93, MTV aired Yo! MTV Raps only once a week, for two hours, on Fridays after midnight.

The end of Yo!

Yo! MTV Raps had its series finale on August 17, 1995. Numerous high-profile names in the world of hip-hop closed the show out with a freestyle rap session, including Rakim, KRS-One, Redman, Method Man, Special Ed, Erick Sermon, Chubb Rock, Craig Mack, MC Serch of 3rd Bass, and Large Professor. Salt-N-Pepa holds the distinction of appearing on the first (technically, the first episode to feature Fab 5 Freddy) and last episodes of Yo! MTV Raps.

From 1996 to 1999, MTV repackaged it as simply Yo!, which was far more stripped-down and had a weekly slate of special guest hosts. For instance, Angie Martinez and Fatman Scoop served as its hosts. By 1998, Yo! had no guest hosts and became a one-hour program airing late Friday nights at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

In 2000, MTV's outlet for hip-hop videos became Direct Effect, known since 2006 as Sucker Free. It aired three times a week at around 7:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time). It is one of the few music video outlets for MTV besides its late-night/early-morning music video rotation hours, as MTV continues to focus on non-music video programming, especially reality television shows.


Yo! MTV Raps made a comeback of sorts, after an eight-year hiatus during the Jackassworld.com: 24 Hour Takeover in February 2008. It had Steve-O (alongside Sam Maccarone) promoting his new rap album, doing freestyles, and showing his new music video. The old set was carefully recreated, with Johnny Knoxville joking that Mike Judge created a brand new Beavis & Butthead episode with them critiquing Steve-O's rap video.

20th Anniversary

In April 2008, Yo! MTV Raps celebrated its 20th anniversary[5] by making a comeback on MTV. MTV's show Sucker Free transformed into Yo! MTV Raps and featured classic hip-hop music videos as well as current hip-hop videos. Fab 5 Freddy, Doctor Dré and Ed Lover contributed to the tribute of the show. At the end of April 2008, MTV aired Yo! countdown shows and featured the top moments from the show during its airing on MTV.

30th Anniversary

Yo! MTV Raps was revived for a new generation in 2018, celebrating the 30th anniversary at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on June 1, 2018.[6]

The live show featured Big Daddy Kane and the Juice Crew, Eric B & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, EPMD, Flavor Flav, and many more. It also featured past hosts and DJs who helped shepherd the series, like Fab 5 Freddy, Ed Lover, Doctor Dré, T Money, Skribble, Red Alert, and Chuck Chillout. Tribute videos from artists like Eminem, Method Man, and Redman also commemorated the occasion.

Yo! MTV Raps International

In Spring 2019, Viacom International Media Networks relaunched the series with local versions in the UK, Germany, South-East Asia, and pan-African versions on MTV Base and MTV Africa. The Format and editorial of the series were headed by British TV producer Darcy Thomas. This also followed with a bi-weekly spin-off show Yo! MTV Rates hosted by Snoochie Shy and Poet, which aired in the UK and was also produced by Darcy Thomas[7] for two seasons (16 episodes).

MTV Classic

Following the launch of MTV Classic on August 1, 2016, music video blocks have consistently aired on the network under the name Yo! Hip Hop Mix. When broadcast, however, this is merely an automated playlist of rap/hip-hop videos from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Pluto TV

A Yo! MTV Raps channel was added to Pluto TV following Viacom's purchase of the service.[8]


On February 24, 2021, it was announced that Yo! MTV Raps would be revived on ViacomCBS' streaming platform Paramount+, formerly CBS All Access.[9] On February 17, 2022, it was announced that Conceited and DJ Diamond Kuts would host the revival.[10] On May 2, 2022, it was announced that the revival would premiere on May 24, 2022.[11]

References in popular culture

See also


  1. ^ "T450 Style & Launch".
  2. ^ Piolet, Vincent (2017). Regarde ta jeunesse dans les yeux. Naissance du hip-hop français 1980-1990 (in French). Le mot et le reste. ISBN 978-2360542901.
  3. ^ Chang, Jeff. “It’s a Hip-hop World.” Foreign Policy 163, Nov/Dec 2007, 58-65.
  4. ^ Yo! MTV Raps 20th Anniversary | MTV
  5. ^ "'YO! MTV RAPS' CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY: Occasion will be marked throughout April via special programming". Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  6. ^ Charles Holmes (2018-04-19). "YO! MTV RAPS IS BACK IN A BIG WAY". MTV.
  7. ^ "Darcy Thomas". Industry Takeover.
  8. ^ Barnes, Jess (2019-07-30). "Pluto TV Adds 3 New MTV Music Videos Channels". Cord Cutters News. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  9. ^ Porter, Rick (February 24, 2021). "'Behind the Music,' 'Yo! MTV Raps,' 'Road Rules' Revived at Paramount+". The Hollywood Reporter.
  10. ^ "Renowned Battle Rapper Conceited and Celebrated Deejay DJ Diamond Kuts to Host Return of Iconic Series "Yo! MTV Raps" on Paramount+" (Press release). CBS. February 17, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2022 – via The Futon Critic.
  11. ^ "Legendary Series "Yo! MTV Raps," Hosted by Conceited and DJ Diamond Kuts, Set to Premiere Exclusively on Paramount+ Globally May 24" (Press release). CBS. May 2, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2022 – via The Futon Critic.
  12. ^ "Yo! MTG Taps! - Episodes Archive".