In direct response to Yo! MTV Raps, BET launched their own rap video program called Rap City on this day in 1989. Created by Alvin “The Unseen VJ” Jones, Rap City profiled big-name rap stars but also focused on underground rappers who didn't have a large following as well.
Jones, who served as producer from 1989 through 1991, told Rolling Stone in 2017 that the show was born out of complaints he was hearing from rappers who said "BET’s not playing our videos." The show went through a series of hosts. Comedian Chris "The Mayor" Thomas was the first host of the show from 1989 to 1991. He was followed by Hans Dobson (aka Prime) from 1989 to 1993, then it was Prince Dejour (1991–94), Joe Clair (1994–99), Leslie "Big Lez" Segar (1994–99), Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan (1998–2005), DJ Mad Linx (2005–06), J-Nicks (2005–06) and Q-45 (2006–08).
At the turn of the millennium, Rap City reinvented itself under Big Tigger's run and was re-titled Rap City: Tha Basement. By 2008, the show was competing for viewership against popular video websites like Worldstarhiphop.com. Then came along YouTube, which allowed fans to watch their favorite music videos on their computers at any time instead of their television sets.
"It’s hard to compete with an infrastructure that says, 'Here’s whatever video you want to watch, whenever," said Mad Linx. "It’s very difficult to compete with that. I’ll never forget the first time I saw YouTube. I said, 'This is going to be a problem.' Look at MTV: The 'M' ain’t stand for music in decades."
Rap City ended its run on Nov. 8, 2008, after two decades of pushing hip-hop culture forward. "MTV had their show, but we were the first black show," said Prince Dejour. "I personally was not competing with them. I was having fun in my own lane."
"They would say stuff about us on MTV. They would say things about us just to boost up their ratings," he continued. "We were the only two hip-hop shows in the country and internationally. There was no other competition around, just the two of us. BET was big because we had the whole African-American community on lockdown."