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Yo! MTV Raps concert brings back nostalgic memories of our favorite rappers

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 01: Flavor Flav performs during the YO! MTV Raps 30th Anniversary Live Event at Barclays Center on June 1, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Raymond Hagans/MediaPunch

On Friday, June 1, 2018 Hip-hop legends Eric B. & Rakim, KRS-One, MC Lyte, Pharcyde, EPMD, Yo-Yo and so many more gathered at the Barclays Center to perform for the 30th anniversary of YO! MTV Raps.

From 1988 to 1995, the iconic show was hosted by several incredible hosts: Fab 5 Freddy and then later by Ed Lover and Dr. Dré (of Original Concept fame). MTV is currently planning to relaunch YO! this year.

The concert took fans back in time showcasing a litany of rappers who had their big break on the famed MTV show. Veteran rapper Big Daddy Kane performed and brought out guest Roxanne Shante. In addition, Special Ed rapped “I Got It Made” and other hits, as well as brought out his good friend Ed Lover. Legendary rap groups DasEFX, Onyx, and Pharcyde also delivered exhilarating sets.

The iconic rap duo Eric B. & Rakim performed as a tribute to having their video “Follow the Leader” be the first clip played on the premiere episode of YO! in 1988. They will embark on a tour this summer to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal LP Paid in Full.

In short, this was the biggest old-school rap fest New York has ever seen in a long time. “Music wasn’t being played on a regular basis on mainstream radio at this time,” says Fab 5 Freddy, a visual artist-turned VJ who was one of hip-hop’s earliest recognizable names thanks to a shout-out on Blondie’s  “Rapture.” “It was still a secret that these people in New York and Philly and a few other places knew about.”

“MTV began its life essentially as an analog to segregated rock radio,” says Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History and Business of Hip-Hop. “For most of the 1970s, FM rock radio had become mostly segregated along racial lines. Where you would have heard Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder played right next to each other, you only heard Led Zeppelin. The people who founded MTV were radio people from that world.” From MTV’s start in 1981, white artists found it much easier to break into the programming at the music channel. David Bowie famously called out the station on its own air during an interview, saying, “I’m just floored by the fact that there’s so few Black artists featured on it.” According to Charnas, it took a threatened boycott by CBS Records to get Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on the air, but even after artists like Jackson and Prince started to get airplay there seemed little room for artists of color.