Peter Dougherty, ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ Creator, Has Passed Away (Video)

In today’s era, when MTV hardly plays any music, it becomes easy to forget just how influential the television network was to the promotion of music and popular culture. Its “Yo! MTV Raps” program would revolutionize the way Hip-Hop artists were seen in mainstream America, but it took several years and the input of some forward-thinking employees to get the series off the ground. One of those ingenues was Peter Dougherty, who passed away earlier this month from a heart attack. The 59-year-old will be remembered for a lifetime of accomplishments, but to Heads, his integral role in elevating the visibility of Hip-Hop culture to the masses will be his crowning achievement.


A frequenter of New York City’s ’70s and ’80s downtown arts scene whose friendships with the likes of Fab Five Freddy and the Beastie Boys would expose him to just how momentous the culture of Hip-Hop was, Dougherty’s blossoming career as an MTV promotions assistant gave him the platform he needed to pitch a show devoted entirely to Rap music. Along with Ted Demme (who passed away in 2002), Dougherty filmed a pilot in the summer of 1988, which would become the network’s highest-rated show in its history. And thus, “Yo! MTV Raps” was born.

Dougherty also directed a few music videos, including the Beastie Boys’ “Hold It Now, Hit It,” which, combined with the legacy of the show he helped birth, makes him one of the most successful preservers of Hip-Hop’s early childhood. As Fab 5 Freddy shared with the New York Times, Dougherty was prescient about what the future held for the culture. “He kept everything – every tape, every flyer, every little handbill.” Those items are now part of the New York University Fales Library, another gift given to future Heads.

Ambrosia for Heads sends condolences to Dougherty’s family and loved ones. We salute a true pioneer and thank him for recognizing the potential of so many when few else would.

To learn about the early days of “Yo! MTV Raps” in Dougherty’s own words, watch the video below to hear his contributions to the Stussy-produced documentary “The Importance of ‘Yo! MTV Raps.'”

Related: Before Yo! MTV Raps & Rap City, There Was Graffiti Rock. Its Creator Details the History (Video)