On this day in 1981, music changed forever with the launch of the Music Television network — better known as MTV.
Back when the network premiered, hip hop was blossoming, disco was dying and soul music was making a serious comeback. Black artists were mostly neglected in those early years, even though performers like Rick James, Prince, Donna Summer, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson would ultimately propel the channel to new heights. It took a cultural upheaval for those artists to be played on heavy rotation, all while hip hop remained on the outs. All of that changed when a brash and cool crew from Queens refused to be ignored. In 1984, Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box” became the first rap video played on MTV (This fact is disputed by folks who ridiculously give that title to Blondie’s video for “Rapture”).
From 1981 to 1984, MTV wrongfully ignored countless hip hop artists. Check out these ten important videos that were snubbed by the network.
1. Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force, “Renegades of Funk” (1983)
Bambaataa changed the game with this powerful video highlighting Black history. Clearly, that was too much for MTV at the time.
2. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, “The Message” (1982)
So simple. So iconic. So educational.
3. Run DMC- “Sucker MCs” (1983)
The Godfathers of hip hop sure knew how to deliver dope visuals, but MTV wasn’t here for them. A year later, the group would make history with “Rock Box” being the first rap video airing on the network.
4. Sugar Hill Gang- “8th Wonder” (1981)
This group had a huge hit with “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, but MTV still refused to play their videos in 1981. “8th Wonder” was a huge club hit, plus the video is innovative for the time.
5. Whodini – “Magic’s Wand” (1982)
Before MTV caught on to Whodini’s mass appeal, and prior to the freaks coming out at night, the rap group’s star was already on the rise.
6. Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force – “Planet Rock” (1982)
This hip hop classic, which ruled the clubs at the time, got no love from MTV. Now, the video has over 13 million views on YouTube. The execs at MTV definitely missed the mark on this one.
7. The Sequence – “Simon Says” (1982)
This trio of female rappers had a hit with “Simon Says.” Although the song was released in 1980, the video wasn’t released until 1982 and was a hit in the clubs, but not on MTV.
8. The Rock Steady Crew – “Hey You” (1983)
While this song wasn’t a huge hit in the U.S., it was a massive success overseas and even hit number one on the Dutch charts. The song could’ve achieved much more success with exposure on MTV.
9. Frankie Smith – “Double Dutch Bus” (1981)
This song was a fusion of disco and hip hop— ahead of its time with vocals in the chorus and rapping in the verses. Frankie had some serious flow and the track charted at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the video was nowhere to be found on MTV.
10. Kurtis Blow – “The Breaks” (1981)
One of the greatest hip hop songs ever, “The Breaks” never got love on MTV. Even though the video above was a live performance, it was reportedly played on BET, while MTV was known to air live videos from rock artists.
Thank God for Yo! MTV Raps, which aired from 1988 to 1995, for giving rappers a platform to shine. Thirty-six years after the network launched, we can celebrate hip hop being the most influential and consumed genre in the United States.