Oh the beauty of the Paris landscape runs through the mind when thinking of romance. France, being the cultural capital of the world beginning centuries ago, has still retained its love and joy through its amazing culture and people. I know that as a Jew France has suffered in the hands of the extremists, with the killings of Jews, including children, by vile creatures rising from the muck of anger and hatred. Still, France has many unearthed treasures, and one of these treasures is the amazingly talented, and beautiful Sophie Bramly.
Born in Tunisia, a lavish North African country that has maintained its Jewish population, she was whisked away by her parents to the land of France by the age of one. At the time of her parent’s move France was far more hostile to visible Jews, so her parents hid their traditions. However, like the pull that keeps us grounded to our roots she currently lives in the heart of the Jewish section of Paris. She told me that it was these amazing sounds of black music that fascinated her from a very young age. She was influenced by her older brother’s record collection of funk, soul and r&b, as well as attending concerts in order to make her brother look a bit cooler to the girlies. However, the music gave her a wave of sensation that made her interested in hearing more. This led her to the land of New York City in 1981, with a camera in hand.
She was amazed by these poor kids who were having fun while creating new ways to enjoy the older music. The influence wasn’t lost as she rode the iron horse all through the banging boroughs of New York City, and sniffing out the many venues pumping this new style of music.
She took many photos of the era, which have been displayed in museums across the world, chronicling the culture in it’s every day walk….
Showing the people who were involved, yet are buried in the annals of hip-hop history with no clear rhyme or reason…
She befriended some of the pioneers from Flash to Bam, from Zephyr to Futura, from Grandmaster DST to Fab Five Freddy, and beyond. Fab Five Freddy was championing the culture through the art as the murals on trains ended up in galleries. He also wanted to help spread the culture visually to the masses through the new medium we all know very well to this day, MTV.
From its beginning MTV was very white, refusing to show any videos by black artists. If you did (meaning Michael Jackson or Prince) they would be buried in hours and hours of Wang Chung, Duran Duran, and other modern love fodder of the 1980’s. Rap videos have been made since the late 1970’s (think Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s video for “The Message”), yet they were all shown locally within their neighborhoods, and communities. One example was the Video Music Box where you would order your favorite videos. However, most of the teens in everyday suburb USA never saw these videos. This all led to the creation of Yo! MTV Raps, not in the US but in Europe. And, who would host such a show? Ms. Bramly.
Due to her many connections and relationships she was tapped to host a rap video show, based out of MTV Europe in their London studios. Her, and an American Jewish producer by the name of Joel Klein, hashed out the details of the show together. She told me that at that particular time Public Enemy’s first album Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was huge and they couldn’t stop listening to Mr. Chuck and company’s debut effort.
As a play on the title her and Klein would address each other every day by one shouting “Yo!” and the other replying “Bum Rush the Show.” Naturally the word stuck and before you knew it the first rap video show was called Yo! The MTV raps part was added by their American counterpart when they began a year later in the summer of 1988. Bramly was the first to coin the phrase for MTV, but she was also the first to host this type of show.
When she first began hosting the show her friends would call from the US in astonishment that MTV started this, and in Europe. Meanwhile MTV America was playing it safe, until Ted Demme pushed it on them by 1988. However, there were some glaring differences between the two shows. Sophie’s show was far more international bringing rappers and crews from the United States, as well as from other parts of the world. She interviewed French, English, and many other rappers from across the globe, who were never exposed to an American audience. The American version of Yo! MTV Raps was very American-centric eschewing most of the European artists.
Unfortunately the European show did not last as long, being cancelled by the early 1990’s, as MTV didn’t want any inner competition. By consolidating their shows they cut off the European link. Still, they survived and Bramly persevered. This was the untold story where Bramly deserves credit as the first real host of Yo! MTV Raps. This lovely Jewish lady was inclined to push the culture, and its amazing music. She also has amazing photos that are classic and timeless hip-hop masterpieces.
Enjoy the show and much respect for Sophie Bramly!!!