Hip Hop’s Outlier – Uncle Ralph McDaniels Interview Part II
In 1982, when Uncle Ralph first pitched his show idea to WNYC-TV (Channel 31), music videos were still revolutionary.
MTV launched in August of 1981 with completely Rock focused content. Acts like The Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”), Pat Benatar (“You Better Run”), Rod Stewart (“She Won’t Dance With Me”) dominated the fledgling cable channel’s rotation. Except for the occasional clip from Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Eddy Grant and Musical Youth (“Pass The Dutchie”), videos by black artists were seldom broadcast. Michael Jackson didn’t break MTVs self imposed color barrier until 1983 when “Billie Jean” became the first video by a black artist to receive regular airplay.
Keep in mind that cable was brand new technology. Manhattan Cable Television (where Uncle Ralph interned) was the nation’s first cable company and did not reach outside of Manhattan. The four remaining outer boroughs still relied on VHF and UHF signals. Anyone living outside of Manhattan likely would not have access to MTV — or any other cable channel — until the late 1980s.
At the same time, Hip Hop itself was still little more than an urban movement championed by rebellious youth. The Culture existed in parks and parties and could be seen bombed on subway trains winding through The City infrastructure. It wasn’t on radio. It certainly wasn’t on television.
It wasn’t the mainstream. It was the alternative.
So when Ralph McDaniels pitched his idea for an “edutainment” video show to the station where he worked, not surprisingly he was met with resistance.
“We pitched it as a video show. People didn’t know what that was because…MTV existed, but nobody saw it because there was no cable. Nobody had cable. My sell was edutainment. We wanted to educate kids to whats going on in New York City as well as entertain them with the videos. They’re not going to listen unless you give them something they like, and this is something that young people are in to. They are in to music videos.”
WNYC-TV rejected the idea initially but agreed to try it as part of a broader fundraiser. The fundraiser proved to be successful. Too successful.
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