MTV has one more event planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop before 2023 comes to a close: Queen Latifah, Wyclef Jean and Redman will perform as part of MTV Unplugged Presents: A Hip-Hop 50th Celebration of Jersey’s Finest.
The program is set to air at 9 pm ET on Dec. 14, according to a brief promotional video MTV posted to YouTube. It will also include performances from Naughty By Nature’s Treach, Poor Righteous Teachers, Heather B, The Sugarhill Gang, Lady Luck and Lords of the Underground.
New York City has generally been at the center of historic conversations about the early days of hip-hop, but New Jersey has also made innumerable important contributions to the genre. Icons like Redman, Ice-T and Lauryn Hill all have roots in the Garden State. Newer acts like Ho99o9, Bandmanrill and Fetty Wap have also emerged from the state in recent years.
The special, produced by Queen Latifah, will be filmed at the historic Newark Symphony Hall, Billboard reported. Musical direction will be provided by Emmy winner Adam Blackstone, who's known for his work with Nicki Minaj and Justin Timberlake.
This will be the first MTV Unplugged special of 2023. The program took a year off in 2020 due to the pandemic. It came back in 2021 with performances from BTS and Lady Gaga. Last year, Twenty Pilots played an Unplugged set, as well.
Hip-hop's 50th anniversary has been an important theme for MTV's special events programming in 2023. Ice Spice, Nicki Minaj and Latto took home numerous trophies at the network's annual Video Music Awards in September. The ceremony also featured performances from legacy acts like Run DMC, Doug E. Fresh and Grandmaster Flash in acknowledgement of the genre's landmark milestone.
Sean "Diddy" Combs also performed a series of Bad Boy Records tracks at the event. This was before he made headlines for several alleged sexual assaults in recent weeks. (The entrepreneur has been sued by the singer Cassie and an anonymous accuser who claims she was assaulted by him at age 17.)
MTV Unplugged first aired in 1989. The show is centered on stripped-down acoustic performances that allow chart-topping musicians to show their tracks in a different light. Over the years, the show has hosted iconic performances by artists like Rod Stewart, Nirvana and Mariah Carey. Though largely centered on rock and pop acts, hip-hop performances have been present in the series from the very start, kicking off with a 1991 show featuring De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte and LL Cool J. (The latter's shirtless, sweaty acoustic rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out" would get heavy rotation on the network.) Lauryn Hill used her Unplugged appearance in 2001 to debut new material, her first since winning armfuls of Grammys for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. (The accompanying album, which went platinum, still stands as her last full-length of new original material.) Jay-Z's appearance that same year with the Roots as his backing band was also released as a proper live album, selling more than half a million copies.