Ralph McDaniels Is… Legendary

4 min read

Soul Train was the longest running music TV program for 35 years. Guess which show is creeping up on that number?

Is it a surprise that someone who has based his career in The Business of Hip Hop, is about to eclipse that mark? Although this man, Ralph McDaniels, doesn’t get the proper recognition from, literally, hundreds of the most popular hip-hop artists that had their FIRST video either done by him or aired on his, still standing show, Video Music Box. When you look at the Hip Hop (As well as other genres) artists that are at the top of the Forbes list as highest earners, all of them probably had their very first video aired on Video Music Box! No, not probably, they ALL did!!! Puffy, er, I mean, Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs, Dr. Dre, Jay Z and Birdman definitely owe this man!!!

Any way…

If there is someone who deserves to be called Legendary, it’s Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box!

Video Music Box

Did it ever imagine your show, Video Music Box, being on the air for over 30 years and how does that make you feel?

I did imagine it being on for a while, but not 33 years. I realized at some point we play a role that most entertainment TV shows don’t play in New York. It’s larger than the just the music videos.

Tell us how your mindset and approach is now doing the show as opposed to when you first started doing it at the beginning. 

My approach to doing the show hasn’t changed a lot, I’m still open to all genres of music and community minded.

I would say with clarity that if it weren’t for you shooting, directing and producing music videos (Classic Concepts) and then having an iconic show like Video Music Box featuring Hip Hop, Reggae and R & B back then, the evolution of Hip-Hop may have had a different, if not as fruitful path than it had. Does this thought cross your mind often and do you think that you’ve been given enough props for literally advancing the careers of HUNDREDS of artists, specifically, NY Hip Hop?

I don’t think about all the artists and others that we have given starts to until someone brings it up or they leave us out of their book or speech. No worries, I have it on videotape.

What was your reasoning for being involved in The Business of Hip-Hop and how has its evolution affected you and the running of your business?

I started out as a lover of music and television. Hip-Hop is a compilation of all music’s and it can be presented however you like. The idea that I could present my platform however I wanted, was very attractive. I wanted to be as non-corporate as I could be.

With social media playing a very heavy influence in the Hip-Hop audience as far as artists being able to reach out directly to their fan base, How do you think artists from 15, 20, 30 years ago would have fared with dealing with their audience then since there was a disconnect between fans and artist, as far as being able to reach out to each other?

The method of connecting with your fan based has changed from the 80’s and 90’s, but you still have to be true to your fans. Social media can be deceptive.

If you could eliminate any trends with the culture of Hip-Hop from your inception into the game, what would it be and why?

Too many followers and not enough leaders on all levels of the business.

What are your thoughts on the batch of videos being produced these days?

I love the way technology has made it easier to produce content, I feel a lot of the content looks good, but has no soul.

How is Hip-Hop managing commercially in 30 years?

Commercially, I wish there was more balance. Why is commercial music so important?  But, I tell people all the time, it’s right where it is supposed be. Evolution is happening everyday.

I was told several years ago by a friend who grew up listening to Hip-Hop, that the commercialization of the culture and the message resonating from ‘us’ is partly the reason black people get the bad rep we have in society. What do you say about that line of thinking?

I think Black people get a bad rep no matter what we create. We are advanced in certain things and people don’t understand that gift. Commercially, people love Nina Simone, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X now, but they were trouble making niggers back then. We are all vessels of the most high.

Ralph McDaniels has a chance to go back in any point in time and do something differently that he was unable or didn’t do, what, if anything would he do and why?

I feel I wasted time on other people’s things. You can’t make that time up.

A new museum just opened recently and from my understanding, you and Video Music Box were acknowledged. How did that come about and what was your reaction when you found out you’d be included in such an historical institution?

The Smithsonian African American Museum talked to me about my archives about 5 years ago. They wanted a physical object to place in the museum and I gave them the Video Music Box mic flag. It was an amazing experience to see VMB included in the launch of this historic building alongside other historic items. We are located on the 4th floor of the museum, to the right of Bootsy Collins’ stage outfit.

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