Yo! MTV Raps is coming back, and it’s fresher than ever.
With new hosts DJ Diamond Kuts and battle rapper Conceited, the freshly revamped series is set to premiere next week exclusively on Paramount+. The new series comes as a reboot of the iconic ’80s and ’90s hip-hop show, which played a significant role in introducing the then-new genre to the masses.
Produced by MTV Entertainment Studios, the new series — which promises to unveil a fresh new look at the state of hip-hop — is jam-packed with a star-studded list of special guests and performers. Beginning May 24, with new episodes airing every Tuesday through July 12, fans can tune in to watch Freddie Gibbs, Latto, Saba, J.I.D, Shenseea, Tee Grizzley, IDK and Trina conquer the stage and answer some of the most thoughtful questions with Conceited.
Billboard caught up with Grammy-nominated artist and special guest performer Gibbs, Philadelphia favorite DJ Diamond Kuts (who spins daily tunes on the hit radio station Power99 FM), plus renowned battle rapper and lyricist Conceited at the snazzy, multi-dimensional set in Los Angeles ahead of the series premiere.
Gibbs — set to deliver his debut performance of his latest hit single “Ice Cream” during the series — chatted with Billboard inside his trailer moments after filming his appearance.
“It just feels good to be on MTV Raps,” he said proudly. “I could’ve done ‘Diddle, diddle, cat on the fiddle, in the middle’ — it didn’t event matter. I just wanted to come on in and rap, so for the fact that they chose me, I’m flattered.”
The longtime fan — who began watching the original series at just 8 years old and distinctly remembers having a “bittersweet feeling” surrounding the finale — recalled, “I was watching the Tupac and Biggie interviews, all of ’em, and I love [’80s and ’90s hosts] Doctor Dré and Ed Lover. Y’all need to bring them back even for just an episode or two.”
Speaking on the show’s significance, he told Billboard, “It’s definitely been a staple in the game and it’s one of the pioneer shows of rap. I don’t think we would have all of these Internet guys interviewing rappers if not for the show.”
For Gibbs, guesting on the show was everything he expected “and more. I was like, ‘Damn, it’s lit with lights and all that,’ but it still has that ’90s feel with the loft setup.” Gibbs hopes the reboot will inspire the next generation of hip-hop fans. And while shouting out the co-hosts, he added, “Con’s a good host and Diamond Kuts as well.”
Chatting with DJ Diamond Kuts, who scored a direct call from MTV executives about hosting the show, the prime spinner revealed which Philly artists she wants to see appear on the show: Lil Uzi Vert, Meek Mill, D4M$loan, OT7 Quanny, Mecca and Tierra Whack.
And speaking on her new role as host on set, the star DJ said, smiling, “I’m excited to show my energy, the versatility, being able to host, get back on the turntables, read what I need to read and do interviews the way I gotta do my interviews. I have arrived.”
Though she’s already DJ’d for former President Barack Obama and worked with former first lady Michelle Obama and major festivals, she says, “Everybody is super excited about this. I love being able to represent the city well, and not just Philly, but the tri-state [area] of Philly, New Jersey and Delaware. Being able to be a good role model for anybody is a blessing.
“Yo! MTV Raps is an iconic hip-hop staple, so to be a part of this reboot is just an amazing feeling, especially for someone like myself who loves hip-hop,” she added. “The show is the sh–. How I would like to impact the culture is by showing that even though this has been a male-dominated industry, not only am I a DJ and I’ll be cutting and scratching, I want people to see, ‘Wow, she can stand there with the guys. Oh, sh–, she’s a really good DJ.’”
Before hosting his next segment sporting the flyest ‘fit, Conceited spoke with Billboard about the pressures of both hosting and battle rapping.
The Wild N’ Out standout contender said confidently, “There is nothing in the form of entertainment to me that has more pressure than battle rapping. A rapper, country singer or R&B singer can perform the same song or set every night on tour. With battle rappers, you get three rounds, one time, and you can never say the same sh– again, ever again.”
He then joked, “If I battle rapped you and wanted to say something about that difficult last name and had a crazy line, now I have to make sure that nobody else said anything about it.”
Turns out Conceited was scouted to host the series in December. The hip-hop frontman had been anticipating the series’ return and gently nudging MTV folks since around 2014 and vividly remembers the day his dream came to fruition.
“I got the call, like, ‘Yo, we wanna bring back Yo! MTV Raps and we want you to host the show,’” Conceited recalled joyfully. And as luck would have it,”The people that actually hit me up about it didn’t know that I was campaigning about it before, so the stars aligned.”
Reflecting on his favorite aspects of the original series, the host said, “The way Doctor Dré and [original host] Fab 5 Freddy had it was like no rules, I don’t know if they had cue cards back then. They seemed like they were at home chillin’ amongst friends with the stars. It was so comfortable and looked so fun.”
He plans to bring jokes, quips and rap cyphers to the new series after he says the original hosts “paved the way.”
And the Brooklyn native hopes to see hometown greats Fabolous, Fivio Foreign and Jay-Z appear on the new show.
Closing out the conversation, Conceited said, “I’m very happy and feel blessed to have this opportunity of being on the show. I love the set, it’s amazing. It’s fun. It’s dope. And I think it’s going to stick.”
Catch all-new episodes of Yo! MTV Raps — complete with intimate interviews, impressive rap cyphers and performances galore — every Tuesday from May 24 through July 12 on Paramount+.