MTV2 grooves to hard rock, hip-hop

Slate changes reflect hot spots in music industry

A new series spotlighting underground music in both rock and hip-hop, a revamp of long-running request show “Control Freak” and the triumphant return of 1980s heavy-metal paean “Headbanger’s Ball” will anchor MTV2’s new season of programming.

The slate changes are aimed at focusing MTV Networks’ burgeoning digital property more intently on the two genres currently grabbing the most attention in the music world — hard rock and rap — and expanding the amount of material it offers from both styles.

“The way rock is going right now with the success of Ozzfest and the interest in the upcoming Metallica/Limp Bizkit tour, there’s a nice dose of hard rock out there right now,” said Tom Calderone, exec VP of Music & Talent Programming for MTV and MTV2. “And hip-hop has consistently attracted a nice audience for us.”

Capitalizing on the latter style will be MTV2’s “Sucker Free Sundays,” an eight-hour block of hip-hop videos hosted by a different rap star each week. Show will bow May 11, with 50 Cent taking the reins; Busta Rhymes and Ludacris are on deck for future episodes.

Also in the hip-hop vein are “Spoke N’ Heard,” a series dedicated to alternative rap artists, a special chronicling the 22 greatest MCs of all time, airing June 22, and another dedicated to “Eminem’s Greatest MTV Moments” on May 11.

On the rock front, “Headbanger’s Ball” returns to Saturday nights, beginning May 10. In a departure from its old format, the show will feature a guest host every week, beginning with thrash-metal gods Metallica in the premiere episode.

“Subterranean” will follow new and developing acts with a special focus on the independent scene, Calderone said. Guests of honor for the kick-off episode May 9 are Gotham indie-rock trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“Control Freak,” MTV2’s longest-running show, will return with a facelift this season, including new graphics and head-to head call-in battles between videos that will mirror real-life rivalries between the artists themselves, Calderone said.

Also on deck is “Track 2,” in which artists offer running commentary on their videos DVD-style, “Nose Dive,” which charts the rise and fall of has-been talent, and a new season of the network’s “$2 Bill” concert/live coverage series.

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