Peter Dougherty might not be a household name, but he was the man primarily responsible for bringing hip-hop to MTV and an integral part of creating the first big rap program, YO! MTV Raps. On October 12, in his Hastings-On-Hudson, NY home, Dougherty passed away at the age of 59 due to a heart attack.
During the mid-to-late 1980's, rap began to grow bigger and bigger, but at the time it still wasn’t widely accepted by the mainstream. Peter, alongside Ted Demme, opted for a change. While already running on-air promotions for MTV, Daugherty pushed the network to create a rap centered TV show.
It wasn’t until 1988 that the station allowed the pair to shoot a pilot for what would become the legendary YO! MTV Raps. The decision was wise, as the show would end up as MTV’s highest-rated program to date when it debuted that August. From there, Fab 5 Freddy was brought on to host a weekly version of the show starting in October, which ran until August 17, 1995.
Through the seven years on-air, YO! MTV Raps was a staple in rap culture. Everybody from Naughty By Nature to LL Cool J appeared on the show. From memorable performances to interviews, the program helped to push hip-hop culture forward and become more than a niche movement in the inner cities.
Adam Horowitz, one of the two surving members of The Beastie Boys, told the NY Times that Dougherty was “a hooker-upper, a connector.” The two met in the early 1980s at a friend’s apartment in St. Marks Place. “He was there when things were happening — not just one thing, but all the big things,” said Horowitz.
Dougherty was a visionary. He looked at rap in a way that most didn’t in the ‘80s, and because of the chance he took he created something special. Thanks to Peter, hip-hop heads had a worldwide platform at a time when nobody else was lobbying for one.
Who knows where rap could be today without all those incredible moments?