The word “revolutionize” gets thrown around haphazardly to any form of innovation these days. However, it is impossible to look at the present landscape of Hip Hop currently and not notice that visual representation for songs are necessitated. That was all made possible by one Queens hip hop enthusiast whom is so beloved in Hip Hop circles that he is often referred to as “Uncle Ralph”. Ralph McDaniels, the founder of the first known television show to showcase Hip Hop music videos, Video Music Box spoke on PNC Radio’s The Combat Jack Show about his history and shed light on some secrets from Hip Hop’s past and future.
[ALSO READ: Uncle Ralph McDaniels Honored With Tribute]
Russel Simmons Used To Look Like A Crackhead
Combat Jack: “Russell looked like he snorted coce.”
Ralph McDaniels: “Right.”
Before Russell Simmons went on to co-found Def Jam Records and become worth $340 million he was a loquacious upstart promoter in the early 80s. Mr. McDaniels recalls how the Phat Farm founder’s attire was in such dissary it was a shocker when he became the success story he is today. Just goes to show, the clothes do not make the man, the future does.
YoMTV Raps was directly inspired by Video Music Box
Combat Jack: “You knock on MTV’s doors, they say no. A year later, they come out with [Yo! MTV Raps].”
The burgeoning culture of Hip Hop was changing by 1988. Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff had released He’s The Rapper I’m The DJ, Run DMC and rock legends Aerosmith released the “Walk This Way (Remix)” and MTV gave Hip Hop a nationally recognized platform to showcase their music videos with the seminal program YO! MTV Raps. However, Uncle Ralph claims MTV rejected him in 1986 when he presented his Video Music Box program to be featured on MTV because “middle America was not ready to have this music on their televisions.” The late Ted Demme was the co-creator of the epochal and apparently had more than a little help with its creation from Mr. McDaniels’ endeavors:
“[Ted Demme] told me years later that he solely watched Video Music Box. That was his only reference for what was going on. He definitely took plenty ideas from Video Music Box.”
Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” Video Shoot Ended In Gunshots
“Only [Nas’] people were standing around so it had to be one of his people.”
Rappers’ unruly entourages have been a mainstay in the Hip Hop community since its inception and in the early 90s, violence erupted almost daily. The majority of the scenes for “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”, Nas’ first music video in promotion of his canonical classic Illmatic, were shot away from his Queensbridge stomping grounds due to ongoing beef. So it is no wonder that after McDaniels promised Maria Davis no violence someone from Nas’ camp let off a few gunshots right next to Uncle Ralph. Sometimes it really is not hard to tell who will start trouble.
Bonus: Ralph McDaniels helped RZA direct his unreleased movie in support of his Bobby Digial album entitled Bobby Did It (shot in Pennsylvania). He even has the footage lying around in his storage.
Big Daddy Kane Paid A Guy Off For A Shooting He Didn’t Committ
“We were got upstate and then somebody says ‘This dude is bleeding.’ I’m like, ‘Why is he bleeding? What happened?’ He thinks he has a gunshot.”
While not a complete case of what Nas calls “accidental murders”, Big Daddy Kane’s phantom gun shot is quite peculiar. While on the road to upstate New York to shoot Kane’s “The Symphony” video, the Long Live The Kane MC’s Derringer accidentally went off and struck one of the passengers. Due to all gunshot wounds admitted to hospitals being reported and investigated, the shooting victim was given Big Daddy Kane’s Nefertiti chain in exchange for his silence. That peace offering did not last very long:
“When they got back to Brooklyn, Kane’s thugs came and juxed dude up and took the Nefertiti chain.”
African American Smithsonian Will Include Video Music Box Footage
“[The Smithsonian] has an African American Smithsonian that will be opening in 2015.”
The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, nine research centers and over 140 affiliated museums internationally. Basically, most of the cultural footprints of legends such as Martin Luther King Jr, Leonardo Da Vinci and others are housed in one of the many institutions. Ralph McDaniels revealed on the Combat Jack Show that the people at the Smithsonian approached him about having a section in the soon-to-be-built African American Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
A huge step in Hip Hop’s continual quest for cultural equality in America.
Check below for archival footage of Nas’ Illmatic release party by Video Music Box: