Uncle Ralph McDaniels Details 35 Years Of Making The Original Rap Video Show (Video)
“Uncle” Ralph McDaniels is a pioneer in bringing video to Hip-Hop culture. The New York City native co-created and co-hosted Video Music Box, a show that would help bring some of the top names in Hip-Hop, and their music, to TV screens across the world. Subsequently, McDaniels would use his connections and visual talent to become one of Rap’s top video directors. He amassed over 400 credits including videos for Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr, Biz Markie, Black Moon, and countless others.
After 35 years in the business (just 10 years short of Hip-Hop’s actual existence) Ralph McDaniels sat down with HOT 97’s Ebro In The Morning and discussed Video Music Box, among other topics. On the inception of VMB, McDaniels says he was able to create the lane for the program at the TV station he worked at by playing promotional videos for groups. At the time Hip-Hop music videos didn’t widely exist. Those out there, such as Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” video, were live concerts or promotional tools sent to radio stations, magazines, and stores to better visually present artists with significant records. McDaniels saw this firsthand when he received materials from Dick Griffey’s SOLAR Records that he thought were deserving of broadcast and public consumption.
McDaniels also describes the first video footage he recorded for what would eventually become Video Music Box. “We went [to The Roxy] and just new dancers, dance was still a big part of Hip-Hop at that time. I knew a lot of the dancers because I would see them there or in Washington Square Park,” he described at around the 7:25 mark of the interview. “You would see all these dancers out there breaking, and I was like, ‘Yo, I want you to be in my show.’ Eventually, I got those dudes, took them to The Roxy – the Fat Boys I took there, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, and they were already hanging there, they were already part of the scene there. I was new to the scene, but I was like, ‘Yo, I’m going to bring my cameras, can we shoot something there?’ And that’s how Video Music Box started shooting.”
When it comes to Hip-Hop videos, Ralph McDaniels revealed that his first ever directed video for the genre was MC Shan’s “Left Me Lonely.” That video, along with his relationship with Tyrone “Fly Ty” Williams’ Cold Chillin’ Records led to Ralph directing more videos within the label, including ones for Biz, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and The Genius (now GZA).
When asked what his biggest (and favorite) videos he directed were, McDaniels named Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.,” Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” and Black Moon’s “Who Got The Props” as just a few in the Hip-Hop realm. Later, he discussed producing an upcoming Wu-Tang Clan documentary, how he was able to make Whodini’s “5 Minutes Of Funk” one of their most sought-after songs, and doing Hip Hop Evolution 2.0 for Netflix.
This latest interview comes on the heels of a 35-year anniversary concert Ralph McDaniels helped put together in July. It featured tons of acts he used to work with, including Fat Joe, Nice N Smooth, Special Ed, Funkmaster Flex, MC Shan and more. After that show took place at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, a free Queens-bound show is set to feature Kid n’ Play, Doug E. Fresh, Large Professor & Main Source, M.O.P., and Audio Two’s Milk Dee. That will go down August 19 at Roy Wilkins Park, from 1pm to 7pm EST. DJ Kool Red Alert and Kid Capri are set to spin. New York Knicks alum Allen Houston also will do a basketball clinic.
The event is in conjunction with King Of Kings Foundation. On Ebro In The Morning, Ralph brought Lance Feurtado from the org. “We always put the music and the community together. That’s what we’re doing. He does the community stuff: looking out for the kids in the community. I bring the music artists, and we do it together.” Feurtado adds, “Our mission is to educate all on the dangers of being involved with drugs, guns, gang violence, succumbing to peer pressure, but most importantly, we promote the importance of an education. Ebro points out that VMB famously had PSAs mixed in with its music video and interview content.