Conversations at Hip Hop Closet : Celebrating 50 years of icons, innovations and moments that defiine Hip-Hop

Conversations at Hip Hop Closet : Celebrating 50 years of icons, innovations and moments that defiine Hip-Hop

Episode 1: I Wanna Give a Shoutout to Uncle Ralph

The year is 1983 and you’re rushing home, eager to watch the latest hip hop videos and interviews from the hottest MCs. You breathe a sigh of relief as the boombox shows up on the tv screen and Whodini’s “Five Minutes of Funk” blares from the speakers. It’s Video Music Box time and “Uncle Ralph” has your undivided attention.

Forty years later, Ralph McDaniels continues to captivate the world with his expansive knowledge and love for all things hip-hop. This is a story of how one NYC local t.v. show changed the game to become the longest-running music video show to date.

Working at WNYC Channel 31 as a Broadcast Engineer gave McDaniels the insight to create something to address the station’s lack of variety in programming and representation.

“It said public broadcasting at the end, you’re supposed to be broadcasting to the public but I don’t see nothing that represents where I live at.”

And so, Video Music Box was born.

The show’s real, rugged, raw tone, felt like pure magic for hip hop fans and the various MCs, DJs, B-boys, superstars, designers, and businesses of that era.

“Yo you the dude from the t.v. show?"

In that moment, the fashion, the culture, and the sounds of hip hop from the east to west coast soon became accessible for all.

McDaniels recalls working as a producer on the film Juice, being the only person to have a copy of Boogie Down Production’s The Bridge is Over when it dropped and onboarding Hype Williams when he was still an assistant art director on video sets.

“Anytime a lot of money is being made there’s gonna be some gangsterism behind it.”

These good times came with some ugly truths for the producer who saw many of hip hop’s ‘shooting stars’ succumb to drug use, and the industry became overly saturated and commercialized. The global influence of social media and the constant demand for streamable content marks the dawn of a new era for Video Music Box, now in its 40th year.

"I wanna give a shoutout to Uncle Ralph!!!"

The show continues to air on NYCTV Ch. 25/22, has its own Showtime documentary,

Watch the full Hip Hop Closet interview to hear more about Ralph’s favorite Video Music Box interview, unaired freestyles and what he has planned for Hip Hop 50.

This interview is part of Hip Hop Closet’s 25th Anniversary: Conversations Series where we celebrate the icons, innovations and moments that define hip-hop.

Feb 2nd 2023 Natasha Knows

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