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Brian Boone

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The Best And Worst Moments In MTV History (VIDEO)

Posted: 08/02/11 09:10 AM ET

MTV was once my electronic cool older brother, exposing me to sweet new bands, showing me cool videos, and telling me that weird comedy like "The State" is hilarious. It gets confusing though when I remember that my brother is really a carefully-crafted entertainment conglomerate that trades in the commodity of coolness and that, at the end of the day, has to answer to advertisers and a board of directors. This means that over the past 30 years - MTV went on the air on August 1, 1981 - the network has provided both moments of visionary, genuine, groundbreaking art, as well as woefully ill-conceived bits of sloppy, regrettable nonsense. Here are the best and the worst moments:

Surprising and Fantastic: Rap Unplugged
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Here's a big secret about "MTV Unplugged": we all pretended to really like it so we could seem cultured and worldly; we pretended to love hearing our favorite songs stripped away of everything that made them interesting so they were bland and boring ("Layla," for example). Or, the show would feature artists like Bob Dylan or Tony Bennett or 10,000 Maniacs, who weren't exactly using Motorhead or New Order levels of electric guitars or synthesizers, respectively. And yet, the one time the show really popped was the one time it really probably shouldn't have. The 1991 episode "Yo! Unplugged Rap," co-branded with "Yo! MTV Raps," was a revelation. At the time, and hell, even now, rap consisted almost entirely of electronic instrumentation, samples, and computerized beats. Performed live, in the intimate "Unplugged" setting, with a five-piece backup band, showed how immediate, vital, and human rap could get. Icons like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and MC Lute all performed, but the standout was LL Cool J's furious reimagination of "Mama Said Knock You Out."
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