YO! MTV RAPS RETURNS WITH PHILLY'S OWN DJ DIAMOND KUTS

 The newest episode of the first relaunch of the Yo! MTV Raps begins with phrase "Today we're making hiphop history,”. “We're continuing something that started over 30 years ago, showcasing hiphop on a nationwide scale, but now we're takin' it global!”

The long-running and much-beloved original Yo!, with Ed Lover and Fab Five Freddy, saw it last episode in August 1995. It's seen a few revivals since then and celebrated its 20th and 30th anniversaries. In this iteration, streaming on Paramount+, the logo lives on, but Flavor Flav will not be in the building.

New host Conceited, who some may recognize from "Wild' N Out," is giving iced-out Turtle from Entourage — animated, likable, thicc. He acquits himself nicely, whether it's fanning out in interviews or leading a more somber tour of 1520 Sedgwick Ave, aka Hiphop Boulevard, in the Bronx, where hip-hop was born at a party in 1973.

Philly's own DJ Diamond Kuts interjects amiably between scratching interludes. She's a busy woman, recently meeting Michelle Obama at @whenweallvote (democracysummit.org) and hyping hard at the Roots picnic.

Leading off Ep 1 with Freddie Gibbs was a smart choice — the Gary, Indiana rapper is a respected elder from the much less hyped Midwest scene. He speaks plain about the "watered down" state of rap: "It just fuck yo palate up when you listen to bullshit." Preach, Freddie. Subsequent in-studio guests include ATL's Latto (whose "Big Energy" will be hard to top for the song/earworm of the year and, frankly, for Latto), Saba from Chicago's Ghetto Sage and dancehall queen Shenseea.

Headlining performances aside, I'm here for the eternally lit cypher, notably with rapid-fire devastation by David Sabastian (LA) and sneering syncopation by Baby Tate (ATL). Ballmer's Deetranada delivers fingernails-in-your-face agg in the debut of her #Yoriginal video, "I'm That."



Numerous segments get a "Yo" prefix, like #Yoflashbacks. Retrospectives and rap legends and are a highlight: Cypress Hill on Latin rap, and producer Just Blaze and The Lox's Sheek Louch on comic books and rap superheroes. Other taped segments spotlight global artists like BET's Best New International Artist and Brit Award nominee Bree Runway and Indonesian Tiktok sensation Ramengvrl.

Overall, the show feels right (although not on basic cable where it belongs), a perfect balance of rising talent and cultural history. Episode 3's special guest J.I.D. tells Conceited he quit football to rap. "My mind could get me farther than my limbs," the J.Cole signee says, wryly.

Thus far, Yo! isn't doing watered down.

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