29 Black Music Milestones: BET, 'Yo! MTV Raps' Launch
On Jan. 25, 1980, Black Entertainment Television (BET) began broadcasting after lobbyist Robert L. Johnson decided to launch his own cable television network. First consisting of a line-up of music videos and reruns of popular Black sitcoms, BET began launching original programs in 1988, starting with "BET News" and in 1989, "Rap City," among others. In 1991, the network became the first Black-controlled company on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Yo! MTV Raps" premiered on MTV on Aug. 1988 and was the first hip-hop show on the network, based on the original MTV Europe show launched just a year earlier. The U.S. version, hosted by Doctor Dre, Ed Lover and Fab 5 Freddy, ran until 1999, originally as "Yo! MTV Raps" and then as just "Yo!"
Eric B and Rakim's clip for the title track for the album "Follow The Leader" was the first video to be shown on "Yo! MTV Raps" during its pilot episode, hosted by Run-D.M.C. and featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff and & The Fresh Prince. The pilot was one of the highest rated programs to ever air on MTV at that point; only the Video Music Awards and Live Aid received greater ratings.
"Yo! MTV Raps" and BET as a whole were crucial in spreading hip-hop music around the world because they were both instantly available to millions of people nationally and internationally.