10 Fab Facts About Yo! MTV Raps

Manny Carabel, Getty Images
Manny Carabel, Getty Images

It’s been 30 years since Yo! MTV Raps brought hip hop to MTV and the world at large. It was the place to be. The American Bandstand of the late 1980s. It was happy chaos surrounded by music videos that weren’t getting play anywhere else on the network. 

The show blazed a trail to bring rap and hip hop into the mainstream. Through its two main incarnations—the intimate art focus of host Fab 5 Freddy and the crazy, silly, cool of hosts Doctor Dré and Ed Lover—Yo! MTV Raps changed the landscape not just of music television, but of the culture itself. There’s no way to measure its full influence because the generation that grew up on it is still changing the world. Here are 10 things you might not know about the revolutionary show, on the 30th annniversary of its debut.

1. RUN-DMC HOSTED THE PILOT EPISODE.

When Ted Demme started as a production assistant at MTV in the mid-1980s, he pestered his bosses about the lack of black artists on the growing network. After developing Yo! MTV Raps for MTV Europe, MTV tossed a few thousand bucks to Demme and producer Peter Dougherty to create a pilot, which featured Run-DMC hosting a flurry of videos (the first ever was Eric B. & Rakim’s “Follow the Leader”). It was one of MTV's highest rated single episodes at the time.

2. IT TOOK MTV OUTSIDE THE STUDIO.

The original idea for the show was simply to showcase the best hip hop videos, since MTV wasn’t doing that in their regular rotation. When Yo! MTV Raps moved beyond the pilot concept with rap pioneer Fab 5 Freddy at the helm, the vibe of the show expanded to spend more time with the artists. But Fab 5 Freddy wanted to take the show on the road. “I did not wanna be cooped up in that MTV studio where all those previous VJs would be,” he said. His first episode was taped in Salt-N-Pepa’s rehearsal space; he walked the streets of New York City with The Beastie Boys; and he even hung out with LL Cool J and LL Cool J’s mom on their couch.

3. CAROLE KING WAS RANDOMLY THE FIRST GUEST OF THE NEW INCARNATION.

Yo! essentially had three starts: the pilot, the year of Fab 5 Freddy, and the daily insanity hosted by Doctor Dré and Ed Lover. That freewheeling celebration pumped into households every day after school is what most remember the show as. It was improvisational from the beginning. They spotted Carole King in the studio on their first day of filming, asked if she would join them, and she agreed, making the gentle-voiced singer/songwriter the first official guest of the raucous hip hop-focused show under its new stewardship.

4. T-MONEY INVENTED THE ED LOVER DANCE.

If you’re looking to properly credit the inventor of the Ed Lover Dance, it’s Yo!’s resident sidekick. T-Money was in Original Concept with Doctor Dré, who brought him into the production. “T-Money showed me the dance and told me, ‘Do this every week,’” Lover told Vulture. “We picked Wednesdays because most Wednesdays we didn’t have nothing else happening. It was hump day. Dré picked 'The 900 Number' and it took on a life of its own.” T-Money also made a mark on the show with a series of outlandish, hilarious characters that fit in perfectly with Yo!’s super loose style.

5. THEY SHOT ALL FIVE WEEKLY EPISODES IN ONE DAY.

Since they didn’t have a lot of money (and a lot of what they did have was allocated toward oversized props and silly costumes), Lover and Doctor Dré filmed a bunch of episodes in a few hours. “We didn’t shoot the week like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,” Doctor Dré explained. “We shot on one day, and all five shows, and we changed clothes on set ‘cause we didn’t have a budget. We just did everything that we wanted to do.”

6. THE SHOW HELPED LAUNCH HIP HOP GLOBALLY.

T Money, Fab 5 Freddy, and Dr. Dre onstage during the YO! MTV Raps 30th Anniversary Live Event in New York City.Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images

Hip hop is one of the United States’s biggest exports, and Yo! was a big part of making that a reality. The success of the show led MTV to use it as an anchor in dozens of other countries where it was building an incipient global empire. The show helped spread the music to a worldwide audience hungry for it. As a testament to its reach, Fab 5 Freddy once met a woman from Russia who had relatives in Europe tape the show on VHS and mail it to her so that her whole block could gather around their TV to watch it.

7. CHUCK D DESCRIBED IT AS “BLACK CNN.”

In standing at the center of mainstreaming rap and hip hop culture, Yo! also has a hand in commodifying image and attitude alongside the music to a predominantly white audience. Public Enemy’s Chuck D called it “the Black CNN,” recognizing it as a rare space on television for black Americans to share their perspectives. Fab 5 Freddy was optimistic about white youth’s interest in the culture. “They won’t be as narrow-minded as their parents were,” he said in 1991. “See, black people do it all the time. We know how whites live. We don’t have to think about it. Motion pictures, television, they’re all full of how white people live, act, how they kiss. Now things are swinging around a little bit.”

8. SALT-N-PEPA WERE ON THE FIRST AND THE LAST EPISODES.

Philippe AIMAR, AFP/Getty Images

Yo! fueled a lot of careers (the pilot was the first time anyone had seen a young rapper named Will Smith on TV) and relied on star power within the hip hop community. Name a major rap group or hip hop artist of the era, and they were on it. Yet Salt-n-Pepa have the unique distinction of having bookended the series. It all started with Fab 5 Freddy hanging out in their rehearsal space, and they were there when it ended August 17, 1995.

9. THE FINAL FREESTYLE WAS UNPLANNED.

The last episode of Yo! featured a now-legendary freestyle session where Rakim, KRS-One, Chubb Rock, Erick Sermon, MC Serch, Method Man, Redman, Special Ed, Extra P, and Craig Mack all passed the mic around. Like most everything in the show, it was off the cuff. “That was the whole beauty of it all,” Doctor Dré said. “They all came in to say thank you and goodbye, we love you guys, the whole thing, and it just started.” Chubb Rock saw it as a way to remind everyone of what they’d be missing.

10. DOCTOR DRÉ THINKS IT WILL BE DIFFICULT TO REBOOT.

Scott Gries, Getty Images

MTV recently announced they’d be rebooting the show, but there’s almost no chance that it will be nearly the same as the Fab 5 Freddy or Doctor Dré and Ed Lover years, which represent zeitgeist lightning in a bottle. “Yo! MTV Raps was a snapshot in time,” Doctor Dré said. “It happened when it was most needed, when the music industry, the nation, and the world needed something that would unite everybody to a 1-2-3-4 beat, to a boom and a bap to a zugga-zugga-zugga, to an MC getting down on the microphone.” Maybe we need it rebooted after all.

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25

Amazon/shopDisney
Amazon/shopDisney

Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17

ZJHAI/Amazon

These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12

Aerwo/Amazon

This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16

Dazonge/Amazon

These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)

Disney

Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22

Joyin/Amazon

This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17

GeeFuun/Amazon

This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22

Joiedomi/Amazon

This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17

meiguisha/Amazon

Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18

amenon/Amazon

This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

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Cop Rock: How ABC Created the Strangest TV Musical Of All Time

The cast of Cop Rock—in a rare moment of not singing about law and order.
The cast of Cop Rock—in a rare moment of not singing about law and order.
Shout! Factory

A team of gun-toting officers storm into a drug den in the middle of the night as helicopters hover above; a young meth addict mother watches as her baby is taken away from her; a half-dozen gang members are violently placed under arrest.

The opening scene of Cop Rock, which premiered on September 26, 1990, initially resembles the gritty police procedurals co-creator Steven Bochco made his name with. Yet as the suspects are marched out of the house, the show immediately proves it’s a different beast than Hill Street Blues or L.A. Law. For the gang then breaks into an N.W.A-lite rap titled "We Got the Power."

Taking advantage of his 10-series deal with ABC, Bochco had thrown caution to the wind and released a show that was a blend of an ambitious black comedy, a weighty cop drama, and ... musical theater.

Later on in the pilot episode, a courtroom jury turns into a fully-robed gospel choir while belting out their verdict of “He’s guilty.” Elsewhere, a city mayor accepts a bribe from a property developer in the form of a ‘70s-inspired barroom rocker, and the aforementioned meth mom sings a sweet lullaby to her baby before selling the newborn for a measly $200. You can understand why TV Guide once hailed Cop Rock as “the single most bizarre TV musical of all time.”

Unfortunately, Cop Rock's strangeness didn’t pique the curiosity of enough ABC viewers and the show was canceled after just 11 episodes (although it did manage to attract 9 million viewers—a number that certainly wouldn't be sniffed at these days). Its songwriting talent seemed baffled that it ever even aired at all. Randy Newman, who penned both the theme tune and all five songs from its pilot episode, once told Bochco, “You’re crazy. It’ll never work.” Composer Michael Post, meanwhile, claimed it was the worst idea he had ever heard.

Bochco and fellow showrunner William M. Finkelstein didn’t exactly make things easy for themselves, either. The majority of actors were cast simply for their vocal abilities—hence the oft-wooden line deliveries. Conversely, those actors who were able to prop up the more dramatic scenes struggled to hold a tune. The creators also decided to forgo the typical lip-synching to pre-recorded vocals approach and capture each musical interlude live instead, which only added to the show's production complexities.

Unlike future hybrid shows such as Glee, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Empire, Cop Rock struggled to integrate its musicality into its storylines in an organic way. There’s a time and a place for a jaunty Hall & Oates pastiche, of course, but it’s probably not in the middle of a self-described "baby merchant" getting caught in a child abduction sting. Had the show sold itself as a pure comedy, such baffling set pieces might have worked. But most of the laughs Cop Rock got were of the unintentional variety.

The series may have gone down in infamy as one of the biggest misfires in network TV history, but many of the people who were involved with it still seem proud to be associated with a show that refused to play by the norms. In 2010, Bochco told the Los Angeles Times that he considered Cop Rock to be a highlight of his career. And let’s not forget that the show picked up five Emmy nominations, and won two of them: Outstanding Editing for a Series and Achievement in Music and Lyrics for Newman. (It's worth noting that The Wire, which is regularly cited as one of television's best crime dramas—and one of the greatest TV shows of all time—received just two Emmy nominations throughout its entire five-season run, both for Outstanding Writing.)

Although Cop Rock's songs may seem considerably dated today, a belated DVD release in 2016, courtesy of Shout! Factory, showed that the show's themes sadly remain all-too-timely today. Storylines included an unarmed African-American suspect being killed in cold blood by a white cop and a mother singing to her kids about Black history after racists plant a burning cross on their front lawn. Bob Iger, ABC’s former head of entertainment, even said that if the show had been a straightforward police procedural, it probably would have lasted more than a single season.

Perhaps we should consider Cop Rock as more of an admirable failure than an outright embarrassing disaster. As Bochco told The A.V. Club in 2016: "If you have the guarantee of getting that many shows on the air and you don’t do something bold and adventurous and experimental, then shame on you."