Alvin Jones takes pride in his “unseen VJ” persona that developed as a result of creating BET’s “Rap City.”
He was recently honored at the BET Hip Hop Awards for his game-changing work for the network he joined way back in 1984. Hip-hop was only just getting started at the time and had little visibility on the budding cable channel.
“We would take the rap videos and just stick them into Video Vibrations,” Jones told Andscape. “In the beginning, there were not enough videos to do a two-hour show.”
After a visit to New York City, where he attended a new music seminar, Jones came up with the idea for a Rap Week on BET where the channel would only play music videos from rap artists.
“‘I will tell you what I’m going to do. I’m gonna play some rap videos. I’ll do a whole week. If it ain’t a commercial. It’s a rap video. Boom,’” Jones recalled telling Hank Shocklee [founding member of rap group Public Enemy].
After launching Rap Week ahead of Labor Day when kids were still at home and not in school, the program ended up being “the highest-rated show in the history of BET,” he said.
They decided to give the program another run during the holidays and continued to garner more success for the network. Eventually, “Rap Week” turned into “Rap City” and the rest is history. Now Jones looks back on the shows’ longevity compared to MTV’s “Yo’ MTV Raps” and credits hosts like Chris Thomas and Big Tigger for aiding in its continued success.
“The show wasn’t stale. It evolved,” Jones said.
The “Welcome to Rap City” documentary premiered on BET on Thursday, October 12. Jones says the “Rap City” story shows what can come from Black people working together.
“[Rap City] is what happens when Black folks work together. It’s about each one teaching one. Teamwork makes the dream work,” he said.
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