Talking BET Un:Cut With Some of the Legends of BET Un:Cut
Tomorrow is America's 237th birthday, but it also has the unfortunate distinction of marking seven years since the demise of one of the finest series of music programming ever broadcast. BET Un:Cut was an hour block of hip-hop videos that aired at 3:00 a.m. ET that specialized in the racier side of the genre. It uniquely paired the biggest artists in the game such as 50 Cent and Nelly alongside any number of independent and underground rap artists across the country who reached a national audience thanks to a little explicit content.
Such a national platform proved to be incredibly valuable. Regularly getting a 0.3 in the ratings (roughly 215,000 viewers, unheard of for a 3:00 a.m. cable show) BET Un:Cut amassed a loyal cult following of club-goers, college kids, and horny insomniac hip-hop enthusiasts. Such attention allowed Texas rap group Danoiz to spark a regional mainstream radio hit with "Freak of Nature," as well as introduced the world to Khia's "My Neck, My Back." The show aired both the low budget "classics" like The Team Uncut's "Time For Freakin" as well as extravagantly hedonistic videos like Nelly's controversial "Tip Drill," whose infamous credit-card-buttcheeks-slide allegedly got the show into the hot water that eventually lead to its cancelation, and made unforgettable icons out of its most famous videos, many of which stayed in rotation for over five years.
It is with those heroes in mind that we caught-up with the legends of BET Un:Cut to find out what it was like being part of such a unique niche in hip-hop history.
(We'd also like to make a public plea to anyone out there who might have the final episode of "BET Un:Cut" recorded to please upload it, or at least the final montage that set these videos' most memorable moments to the tune of Boyz II Men's "So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday.")
Black Jesus - "What That Thing Smell Like"
How did you first discover "Un:Cut?" Black Jesus: My man John Deloney who does camerawork for BET, and Kevin G, who was one of the producers of Un:Cut, were going to shoot a video for us. I had a song back then called "Can We Talk" where we sampled the old school Tevin Campbell. They were on the way out to shoot a video for us and Kevin G said "We have this show Un:Cut, and if you do the video for 'What That Thing Smell Like,' we can get you spins all the time!" We switched gears, went to the strip club, got some dancers and set the video off.
Do you remember your first time seeing your video on Un:Cut? Yes, that was crazy. I was on the east side of Indianapolis, and we had just gotten back from the club, which was when Un:Cut came on.
Do you recall the first time you got recognized from being on Un:Cut? Yes, the first time I got recognized I was headed out to LA and going to the airport. Someone was like "Hey, aren't you Black Jesus from BET Un:Cut?' and I was like "You watch that?" That was a good experience. Plus, I had a cousin that had gotten locked-up, and I didn't know you could get cable in prison. I went down to visit him, and they were all like "Yeah man, you're the reason we get up to go to work!"
I remember BET was doing a tribute to Patti LaBelle and she was [on 106 and Park] on the couch and AJ and Free asked her what was she listening to. She said "There's this video that comes on when all the babies are asleep. I don't know if I can say it, but it's called 'What That Thing Smell Like.'" I also ran into Beyonce and Marcus Houston, he was telling me they like the video. Also, we were out in Brooklyn going to an industry party and dead prez were there, telling us "We just wanna know what that thing smell like." There was also a drop from Lil Kim on her La Bella Mafia album where it begins with "That was Black Jesus with 'What That Thing Smell Like.'" It opened a lot of doors, giving us a national platform, letting people know who Black Jesus was. It's all been a positive experience. Sometimes I get a little embarrassed when I'm on a field trip with my stepdaughter and one of her teachers recognize me. You don't really want to be on a junior high field trip when someone says the name of the video, but then you realize, what's a teacher doing watch this kind of stuff?
Murs - "Risky Business"
How did you first discover Un:Cut? Murs: I can't recall. There was just a group of us, we had one homeboy whose dad worked nights, so we would all be at his house every night playing Goldeneye, drinking and smoking. The first time I heard about it, I had passed out early and the next morning everybody was singing the "Zip-Loc Bag" song. I was like "I have to see this." We couldn't believe what we were seeing because some of the songs and videos were so bad, in a good way. I think the "Tip Drill" video is a national treasure. Me and Fashawn did a "Tribute to BET Un:Cut," but we used Monopoly money.
Did you make the "Risky Business" video with Un:Cut in mind? Yeah, I was on Def Jux, and the stars aligned. My music is backpack, but I was a regular inner-city at-risk youth. I was doing all the things, drinking and smoking, I just wasn't rapping about it. I was never in-tune with that demographic, but I realized these guys were getting their video played without having to shoot on film or having any skills. I told El-P and the label and the other artists, and Un:Cut wasn't on their radar at all. I said "If you can give me 5K, I can make a hell of a video and I guarantee I can get it played on BET." I was a partner in a clothing store, and while in the shop I met a guy who was interning at a porn company that had just been elevated to director who was dating Dee, who directed "Risky Business." I said I had the money for the girls to shoot the video, and he invited me to go to the AVN convention and pick out any girl I wanted. He got sick, so Dee and I wound up walking the floor and picking out the girls. We had a great time and shot the video at the old Wu-Mansion. It ended up being one of the last times I saw one of my really close friends before he got shot. We were all able to share that moment before he passed, and he was on TV after that. I saw Shock G and Humpty Hump do yoga the next morning after partying harder than I've ever seen anybody party.
Do you remember your first time seeing your video on Un:Cut? I never saw it on BET. I can't watch myself. I felt the affects, but never saw it. I was doing 200 shows a year at that point, either performing while Un:Cut was on, or in a hotel that didn't have BET.
Do you recall the first time you got recognized from being on Un:Cut? Being the regular average black male that I am, I finally started getting noticed at Roscoe's [Chicken and Waffles] by people who never paid attention to me before then. I think that was before the hood was on the Internet, which is why it was so successful. There was a mall I used to go to every Sunday, and now people were like "You're that guy." I'm extremely thankful for BET doing something like that. It was entertaining many a night and it was my first national video. I wish they would bring it back.
Crazy Al Cayne - "T&A"
How did you first discover Un:Cut? Crazy Al Cayne: I don't exactly remember, I just know it was a show that came on late at night that would run independent, racy videos and it was the only place you could see videos outside the commercial stuff and see real hip-hop. It was a nationwide thing, so it was cool. It was the only place you could see all that stuff on TV that the hip-hop community's always dying for. It wasn't hard to get yourself on. You go to BET with a DVD of your video, fill out your paperwork, and the next thing you know they start playing it. There wasn't so much restrictions or label nonsense.
Did you make "T&A" with Un:Cut in mind? The whole concept of "T&A" was making fun of Un:Cut. It was like a parody of the videos they played on Un:Cut at the time. A lot of the videos had to have a dime piece girl with big breasts and big ass, so we made a parody of it like an audition for a video.
Do you remember your first time seeing your video on the show? One night, I'm watching a 50 Cent video, and the next thing I know, they're playing my video. 50 Cent was the biggest thing at the time, and right after him they played my comedy video. I don't believe they told me they were going to air it.
Do you recall the first time you got recognized from being on Un:Cut? Yeah, I had a really good response. The most notable response was, I was walking out of the offices of Atlantic Records as Jim Jones was walking into it, and he goes "Yo, my dude, you's a funny motherfucker. I seen the video." I put the video online, and I get comments from kids all the time who come on and say how they used to watch Un:Cut and how it was a pretty meaningful part of their upbringing.
Mighty Casey - "White Girls"
How did you first discover Un:Cut? Mighty Casey: I had the "White Girls" video on VHS and I would show it to my friends all the time when they would come over. I didn't have cable, so it was through word-of-mouth that I heard about the Black Jesus video. One of my friends said he actually saw "White Girls" on Un:Cut, so I called BET to ask about it, and they told me how to actually submit the video properly. I called a lot to follow-up and had conversations with a few people there to make sure they watched it.
Do you remember your first time seeing your video on Un:Cut? I think it was Thanksgiving at my Father's house. I don't know if I even had cable at the time. I only saw it a handful of times. I wasn't up that late too much, and if I was, I probably watched Sportscenter.
Do you recall the first time you got recognized from being on Un:Cut? Yeah, it was crazy. I was living in Boston at the time and going out a lot. That was really my core constituency. Anybody who was up after 3:00 AM would have to be a college student, a club-goer or a drug dealer. Those are the people who can stay up to 4:00 AM regularly with no repercussions. I thought it was just Boston, but it was national so I started going to DC and LA and got the same reaction. Before "White Girls," I had a strong reputation on the underground. I was featured on Mike Nardone's We Came From Beyond, and that was giving me a different type of fan. I see what people buy on the album, and it's like 90% "White Girls" because that was the only song that was marketed. When you do a song like that, you risk yourself getting stigmatized. But, I'm still making music and I can use "White Girls" as a topic to get me in the door. It's been very positive to my bank account. I'd like to thank BET for taking a chance on unsigned artists. It changed my life into a direction I wouldn't know if I would have went if I didn't go. It gave me a chance to learn about the music industry. I have a band called Knight Blade and a movie called Monkey Gang: The Mockumentary which is like a gangsta rap Spinal Tap. It definitely opened me up to the entertainment business and showed me how much money was in entertainment because once I saw the money from White Chicks using "White Girls" because the Wayans saw it on Un:Cut, I got a big check and still get publishing checks. I'm going to shock the fuck out of people because a lot of people don't know I went to an Ivy League School, I've been a teacher, I've been a journalist, I've been to the White House twice, I'm looking forward to showing my other sides to people.
How did you wind up going to the White House twice? I was a journalist. I worked for NewsOne.com, I wrote for the Huffington Post and I've been on NPR discussing biracial issues.
Joker the Bailbondsman featuring Bizzy Bone - "Uh Huh"
Attempts to reach Joker the Bailbondsman, arguably the first BET Un:Cut superstar were unsuccessful. According to the FBI's website, the Anchorage, Alaska rapper is currently serving 10 years in prison for "two counts of distribution of crack cocaine and one count of attempted distribution of crack cocaine."
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