Director Ted Demme, whose most recent work includes the film "Blow" and who
had a major impact on the cultural map of America in the late '80s as
co-founder and producer of the seminal hip-hop program "Yo! MTV Raps," died
on Sunday, January 13 of an apparent heart attack.
Demme was playing in a celebrity basketball game in Santa Monica when he
collapsed. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced
dead. He was 38 years old.
Demme joined MTV in 1985 as a production assistant and worked on a variety of
programs, including the game show "Remote Control," before he got the idea
that would put him at the helm of his first show and would put rap music in
the living rooms of millions of young Americans.
"I was always kind of a hip-hop fan, growing up in New York," Demme said in
an interview for "MTV Uncensored," "and I just thought there was a lack of
hip-hop music on the channel. So I went to my boss at the time, Peter
Dougherty, who was great friends with Rick Rubin and was very close with the
Beastie Boys. I said, 'Let's do a hip-hop show. We can do the 10 best rap
videos, we'll do some interviews, we'll do some packages.' After trying to
keep pitching it to our boss, they finally said, 'All right, why don't you go
What followed was history-making. The series launched in 1988, and on a daily
basis, the hip-hop scenes in California and New York could check out the
latest from the other coast, and white suburban kids across the country were
turned on to the genre's sounds, styles and personalities. Hip-hop was now
firmly in the mainstream.
In the '90s, Demme left MTV to pursue a career as a director, making films
such as "Who's the Man?," "Beautiful Girls" and most recently "Blow," which
was released last year.
Demme also directed videos for artists including House of Pain, Afghan Whigs
and Bruce Springsteen, whose "Streets of Philadelphia" was recorded for the
made by Demme's uncle, Jonathan Demme, who received an Academy Award for
directing 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs."
Ted Demme is survived by his wife, Amanda, his four-year-old daughter,
Jaxson, and his two-month-old son, Dexter.