Over three decades ago ― in 1986 ― a music industry treasure was brought into the world. Thanks to producers Robert Small and Jim Burns alongside songwriter Jules Shear, fans have intimate memories their favorites forever documented on MTV Unplugged.
The specials air few and far between now, but back in its prime (1989 to 1999), it showcased artists’ range and talent regularly.
Showcasing artists while they performed acoustic versions their own hits and covers, MTV Unplugged saw big names like Aerosmith, Nirvana, and Paul McCartney.
Then, in the ’90s, things got even hotter. In 1991, MTV Unplugged aired its first acoustic rap episode. LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest performed.
Speaking the ’90s, throughout the decade, Unplugged became so monumental that artists began making albums out their 60-minute performances. Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged (1992), Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York (1994), Shakira’s MTV Unplugged (1999), Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2001), and Alicia Keys’ Unplugged (2005) all went platinum.
Where would hip-hop be without Lauryn Hill’s tear-jerking performance on the program? Quiet frankly, the show is a stroke genius.
Sadly, Unplugged‘s co-creator Jim Burns passed away at 65 years old this month after being hit by a taxi in New York. In his honor, here’s an ode to everything Burns and his counterparts have given hip-hop.