MTV Firsts: Country, Rock, Rap, and Reality

Who was the first hip-hop artist on MTV? That would be Run-DMC in 1984 with their track “Rock Box.” But it would be another four years before the launch of the series that gave hip-hop a little more elbow room on the channel. 

The debut episode of Yo! MTV Raps came years later in 1988 (though it debuted a year earlier on MTV Europe). With MTV’s mainstream appeal, the show brought many hip-hop artists even wider exposure.    



When we think of metal on MTV, we think Headbangers Ball, which became hugely popular after first airing in 1987. However, that program grew out of another, Heavy Metal Mania, which debuted in 1985 and ran for about a year. It was hosted mostly by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and it featured guests like Lemmy of Motorhead and Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden

Here is Snider interviewing Lemmy:


OK, so what about country music on MTV? There have been a few moments. The first country video to air on MTV was “Honky Tonk Man” by Dwight Yoakam in 1986. And it’s no surprise, as the song is borderline rockabilly, and Yoakam was at the time often sharing bills with L.A. punk artists – so he already had rock appeal. 


By the 1990s, MTV was branching out in new directions – some of them well away from music. One of the most notable new experiments was The Real World, the first reality show on MTV. Inspired by the pioneering 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family, it debuted in 1992 and has since spawned a life of its own. 




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