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 at Barclays Center on June 1, 2018 in New York City
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.

Salt-N-Pepa pose with their Grammys for Best Rap Performance by a Group at the 37th annual Grammy Awards in 1995
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.

Doctor Dre attends the Yo! MTV Raps 20th Anniversary Roundtable at the MTV Times Square Studios April 7, 2008 in New York City
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.

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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