Celebrate The 28th Anniversary of “Yo! MTV Raps” With Its Very First Episode (Video)

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There may not be a more singularly recognized television channel as MTV, which launched on August 1, 1981. Originally formulated as an all-music outlet (MTV once stood for Music Television) devoted to airing videos, it eventually grew to include original programming and underwent a significant identity change in the 2000s. Now primarily known as a reality-television channel with very little music-centered programming, its status as a cultural icon has diminished but yesterday’s milestone elicited no shortage of praise for the channel that quite literally changed the music industry for good.

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For Hip-Hop fans, MTV is synonymous with “Yo! MTV Raps,” the music-video program which, when it debuted in the summer of 1988, served as the world’s primary introduction into Rap music and the culture it represented. And yet, for all it did to promote the music, fashion, lingo, and elements of what eventually became the planet’s most popular form of pop-culture, the show was virtually absent from most conversations about the most important parts of MTV’s 35 years on the air. In a recent editorial for ESPN’s the Undefeated outlet, writer Clinton Yates references “Yo!”‘s glaring omission as an option in a Twitter poll from Complex, who asked followers to select their favorite MTV show.

Using that as an example of “Yo!”‘s frequent absence from reflections on MTV’s 35th anniversary, Yates argues “[i]t’s nearly impossible to overstate the program’s importance to the culture” and “it had instant credibility and was vital in the global branding of Hip-Hop at a time when it was still considered a niche genre.” As he reminds readers, the program went off the air in 1995 and despite its decline, it continues to be remembered as a game-changer. “A lot of journalists, fans and others often look back on certain eras of artistry with rose-colored lenses, but Yo! MTV Raps really was that solid from a consistency standpoint,” writes Yates. “It became a global brand that influenced a generation. After school, you watched Ed Lover and Doctor Dre. Period.”

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For all of the MTV fans who were dismayed by the lack of “Yo! MTV Raps”‘ tributes on MTV’s 35th anniversary, the show’s first episode is available in full. The Fresh Prince, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Eric B.R & Rakim, Run-D.M.C., and J.J. Fad are just a few of the familiar faces Heads will see.

For even more Hip-Hop television history, Heads can take it back to the early ’80s with an episode of the oft-overlooked “Graffiti Rock” program.