Los Angeles (Associated Press) — “Rap City.” “106 & Park” and “Uncut”.
From groundbreaking to provocative, BET has played a key role in creating some of the most influential programs that have helped bring hip-hop to millions of homes around the world. . Elsewhere, rival show Yo! MTV Rap, the network known as Black Entertainment Television, did a little bit to showcase the misunderstood rap culture decades before it became one of today’s most popular music genres. Despite some resistance, I accepted the role.
For many, BET has become a safe haven for people in the hip-hop world to express their artistry, but it’s not without criticism. The network continues to be a mainstay for established and emerging rap artists.
It all comes together during the BET Awards on sunday. Show officials will celebrate the genre’s 50th anniversary during a telecast dubbed “Nonstop Hip-Hop Party.” It also comes at a pivotal moment for the network, which is about to be sold.Black entrepreneurs and celebrities including Tyler Perry, media executive Byron Allen and rapper entrepreneur Didiinterested in buying a network.
New owners will acquire important cultural fixtures. Its success was partly built on how it elevated hip-hop.
“BET was a big platform for hip-hop and urban music in general,” said E-40. His song “Tired of Being Stepped On” with rap group The Click was made in 1981, at a time when MTV refused to play videos by most African Americans. Appeared in BET’s “Video Soul”. The rapper recalled how guest host Jamie Foxx had belittled The Click’s songs but was undaunted by the comedian’s critical remarks. He felt his group had gained significant exposure for promoting an “unconventional” West Coast rap style.
“The network has really improved. That’s what we needed,” said E-40. He also appeared several times on another BET show called “Rap City”. The show featured hip-hop music videos, interviews and freestyle booth sessions with big names such as Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Johnson. MC light. The show spotlighted popular and up-and-coming rappers and became the longest-running show in hip-hop television history.
E-40 praised BET founder Robert Johnson for giving hip-hop a chance. Johnson built the brand into a leading television network for black Americans in hopes of creating content aimed at jazz, comedy and gospel. But at the time, he and the other founders were unsure about featuring rap shows, believing the genre would not last long.
Rival MTV’s Yo! But MTV Raps showed that hip-hop has staying power.
BET President and CEO Scott M. Mills said: “There was some hesitation at first, but BET’s founders have come to realize how hip-hop is transforming culture as a whole, and black entertainment in particular. I really understand what you are doing,” he said.
“They quickly embraced hip-hop as part of BET’s mission,” he says. “From BET doing shows with no hip-hop artists and no music, artists and music began to trickle into the shows, creating dedicated shows and a complete evolution that celebrated hip-hop music, artists and culture. moved to.”
BET’s decision to embrace hip-hop literally paid off. Johnson and his then-wife Sheila sold the network to Viacom for his $3 billion in 2000, making them the nation’s first black billionaires. He served as his CEO until 2006.
Even after the sale, BET continued to enhance its content with reality shows and its flagship weekday show, 106 & Park, which began in 2000 and ran for over a decade. The show was packed with video countdowns, interviews and performances. A year later, the network launched his BET Awards, and then he launched the BET Hip Hop Awards.
For Lil Jon, appearing in ‘106 & Park’ certainly benefited. One day, the rapper and producer joined the show’s audience when he was having trouble getting his music on BET.
Lil Jon never expected 106 & Park co-host AJ Calloway to find himself sitting in the crowd before shouting his name. This exposure gave him even more visibility, especially among his BET brass band. At first, he says, his crunk had a hard time grasping the concept of his music, but eventually it gained mainstream appeal.
“We worked hard to get on ‘Rap City.’ We worked hard to get on ‘106 & Park,'” Lil Jon said. “AJ knew who I was because he would go down south and host events. He knew the power of my music. was projected onto the audience, which in the world of advertising is called an “impression.” That for me was his way of being with the BET people. They started to see me and become familiar with me and started to care about me. BET was just a place to get support from the community. “
Like Lil Jon, other hip-hop artists also took advantage of exposure from BET. BET often emphasized the positive image of black people through shows such as “Teen Summit” and “106 & Park.” However, in the early 2000s, several popular figures, from filmmaker Spike Lee to Public Enemy’s Chuck D, harshly criticized the channel’s content for portraying African-Americans in a negative light. The network started going in a strange direction.
Many targeted the now-defunct “BET: Uncut,” a late-night adult show containing highly sexual content, including the music video for Ludacris’ “Booty Poppin.” The turning point came after Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video, which featured a woman simulating sex with herself and a man grabbing her body.
“Uncut” typically ended early Sunday morning, hours before the network’s faith-based programming began.
At the time, OutKast’s Big Boy was appalled by some of its vulgar content, calling it “offensive” and “soft porn.” Other politicians and activists also expressed their displeasure. Her co-founder Sheila Johnson even said in a 2010 interview that she was ashamed of BET, suggesting that no one, including her own children, should watch the channel.
In response to the backlash, BET took a new approach. The company researched what viewers wanted to see and created a line-up of more family-friendly shows such as “Lead Between the Lines” and “Let’s Stay Together.”
“If you look at it, hip-hop is like a big family,” said Roxanne Chante. “There will always be family members who do things I don’t like.”
“But who am I who can criticize what they’re going through? It’s a form of expression,” said the “Roxanne’s Revenge” rapper. “I think BET has shown its ability to accommodate that format. Now people are expressing themselves in different ways. .”
Despite the controversy, Mills said there remains a symbolic relationship between BET and the hip-hop community. He said the network has a chance to introduce new artists through the BET Hip-Hop Awards while introducing more popular artists. He shouted out veteran rapper and Oscar-nominated actor Queen Latifah, who hosted this year’s NAACP Image Awards.
“If you look at the artists today, they are very talented,” he said. “I think the evolution of people who decide how they want to present themselves to the world is something they ultimately have to embrace. We are in this moment today, and that moment evolves into what happens next.”
Mills said BET is exploring ways to revive “106 & Park” as a potential residency live show.
With a new buyer considering buying BET soon, it will be interesting to see how much the network’s future focus and hip-hop will be.
Rapper Too Short said BET should continue to serve the needs of the black community.
“‘Teen Summit’ was the greatest show ever,” he said. “Every Saturday morning it’s just for the kids to sit there and have intelligent conversations. It’s amazing to see black kids thinking intellectually, arguing with each other and the audience participating.” That was it.
“I don’t know why no one thinks we need that kind of programming right now. I think BET has to be a community. Don’t show a single side. Everything. Black entertainment. .”