September 11, 2000 was a major day. No, I didn’t mean to put 2001, even though that was definitely a major day as well. September 11, 2000 was the day that grown-ups in between, children and babies everywhere were introduced to what would go on to become a BET staple: 106 & Park.
It was hosted first by AJ Callaway and Free (did anybody ever figure out her real name?) and was basically pegged as BET’s answer to another popular music countdown show: TRL. The show had VERY humble beginnings, terrible but timely fashions, and a lot of personality. Even after the original hosts exited for one reason or another, the show continued to grow and transform until it became not only the highest rated program on BET but outlasted most of its competition. Despite its successes, 106 & Park aired its final episode on December 19, 2014.
Now I know what you’re gonna say, “Well good riddance!” “It was trash now anyway!” “They never should have gotten rid of AJ & Free!” I know because I’ve said those same things. Since about halfway through the Terrance J and Rocsi reign I can probably count the number of episodes I’ve watched on two hands. But when it was announced that the show was ending and when the final episode was actually airing, I realized just how major this show was. No matter when we stopped watching, we have to all admit that for quite some time this show was THE place for up and coming artists and actors; Black, white, and everything in between. Despite its faults, the show deserves to be remembered and respected for the good it did.
Where else would you see Rihanna plant a kiss on Justin Bieber? Tom Cruise doing the “motorcycle” dance? Lady Gaga or Madonna interacting with “The Livest Audience”? Nowhere. 106 & Park humanized some of the biggest stars of the time and brought them closer to the fans that spend their entire paychecks to support them. It gave these people exposure to the all-important Urban audience that helped to get them where they are today. I mean, come on, who doesn’t see Beyonce and think about the time Michelle fell on the stage?
But it wasn’t just about the music. More than any of its competitors 106 & Park was the voice of a generation. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, 106 & Park helped to run the S.O.S. telethon. When BET reported the deaths of musical icons Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston it was on 106 & Park. Both President and First Lady Obama have spoken on the show, and when race relations were (are) tense in the country 106 was the show that addressed them head on. I’d bet that you wouldn’t of seen the TRL audience all dressed in hoodies after Trayvon Martin’s murder, but you better believe 106’s audience was. 106 wasn’t afraid to touch on the important things just as much as they touched on the silly things, and you have to admire that.
106 & Park held on for quite a few years when its main purpose (the videos) had moved to a digital format, and now the show itself has done the same. Now whether you agree with Wale’s words on the final episode or not, you have to admit that 106 & Park no longer being on television definitely makes it harder for up and coming artists to get exposed to bigger audiences, and that it definitely made its mark. We all can argue about how we think the show fell off, but overall I just think we should treat 106 & Park like all those other relatives that have gone on to glory; remember them for all the good they have done not the times they slipped up. Be happy that we got some good years of memories and cherish them, because if 106 & Park’s ending has taught us anything, it’s that even our most beloved traditions can be erased at any moment if we’re not careful.
What are some of your favorite 106 memories? How do you feel about its ending? Drop your comments, questions, and concerns below!