Nas’ Directorial Debut Celebrates Video Music Box

Tomorrow (December 3), Nas will make his directorial debut with You’re Watching Video Music Box. The Showtime documentary, produced by Mass Appeal, celebrates the show created by “Uncle” Ralph McDaniels that initially aired on New York City’s WNYC-TV channel. A Queens native, McDaniels launched the show in 1983 and featured music videos mixed with rare personal access to Hip-Hop’s emerging stars. Ralph played host as well as his leadership behind the scenes, both oozing with a passion for the music, the people, and the message involved.

In the ensuing 38 years, McDaniels and an expanded team including Lionel C. Martin were there with rolling cameras to capture it all. The archives include a teenage LL Cool J, a pre-Wu-Tang Clan Ol’ Dirty Bastard and GZA, Nas and Biggie Smalls passing the microphone, and so much more. This footage blended with music videos that Ralph likens to “a video mixtape” of sorts, especially at the onset.

Video Music Box Was The 1st Rap City & Ralph McDaniels Was The Mayor (Video)

The trailer for You’re Watching Video Music Box includes footage of Nas, JAY-Z, Biggie, Tupac, Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Fat Boys, Yasiin Bey, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Run-D.M.C., Raekwon, Roxanne Shanté, Marlon Wayans, Q-Tip, Chuck D, Rosie Perez, X-Clan, and much more. “There was no coverage of our Rap heroes,” Nas says in a voice-over. “If they would just give us five seconds, we were waiting; I was waiting.” Nas grew up in the range of WNYC and from the same borough as Uncle Ralph. “Somebody had to start it,” says Puff Daddy, comparing McDaniels’ contributions to Moses in The Bible. JAY-Z agrees, saying “Video Music Box, Ralph McDaniels—that’s the only thing we had.”

The show predated Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City, and as Diddy points out, was “unapologetically Hip-Hop” and “unapologetically Black.” Notably, Uncle Ralph would also direct some iconic Hip-Hop music videos. Early in Nas’ career, Ralph and his team were behind the cameras for “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” from Illmatic. He also worked with Black Moon, Wu-Tang Clan, and Gang Starr, among others.

Queens, NY Has Named August 19 “Ralph McDaniels Day” (Videos)

#BonusBeat: A recent episode of Ambrosia For Heads What’s The Headline podcast discussing why Nas’ King’s Disease 2 shows why he’s in the second prime of his career: