Logo Legends: Yo! MTV Raps by Dr. Revolt
When Yo! MTV Raps came out in the late 1980s, a new sound was instantly available to millions of people across the globe. More than anything else, this show helped to create a worldwide appreciation and interest in the hip-hop scene.
The show's animated open was produced by Nigel Cox-Hagen and animated by Beau Tardy, but the classic Yo! MTV Raps logo was created by early graffiti writer, Dr. Revolt. Dr. Revolt began his practice in 1977 as an original member of the historic New York City graffiti crew, The Rolling Thunder Writers (RTW). Known for doing both tags and elaborate, colorful pieces, he developed his reputation by taking over the Broadway #1 line with his colorful psychedelic and comic art influenced stylings. He can be seen in seminal classic hip-hop films "Wild Style & "Style Wars" and various music videos, and has designed several t-shirts, album covers, & logo work for artists such as Grandmaster Flash.
In 1991, Yo! MTV Raps partnered with ProSet MusicCards to create the classic Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards. The cards included everybody from 3rd Bass to Young MC, and the whole set can be viewed at Complex here. The patterning style of the cards are currently enjoying another moment in the sun right now, as designers who grew up in the 90's kids are bringing it back into their work — sometimes through direct tributes.
In terms of purely technical typographic composition, the logo really isn't great. The letters in "raps" don't seem to work particularly well together. The outer speech bubble container gets awkwardly close to the "Yo!" type, creating a strange tension. And the "Music Television" type is way too small to ever be legible and probably should have been removed from the lockup (though I'm sure there was a very typical corporate reason for not doing so).
So yeah, it's not slick. It wasn't designed by Pentagram, or even a professional designer for that matter. But there's a charming naivete and authentic spirit in the logo that still come through today, nearly 30 years after its creation. It's quirky, rugged and raw in the way it was intended to be, and really — it'd be hard to find a more brutally honest representation of the hip hop design aesthetic from that era. 💯