Hip Hop's Outlier - Uncle Ralp McDaniels Interview Part III

Video Music Box’s 6 day, 60 minute edutainment programming grew in popularity the old fashion way: through word of mouth.

Cats would come home from school, turn to Channel 31 habitually, craving that days video line up and live footage of the bourgeoning Hip Hop culture, and call their friends to recap the happenings.

Rap radio was still limited. DJ‘s Mr. Magic and Marley Marl (WBLS) and Chuck Chillout (98.7 Kiss FM) hosted competing urban radio shows on Friday and Saturday nights only. Hot97 as its known today would not exist until the late 1980s.

There were no other avenues. All roads pointed towards Video Music Box.

VMB was the only place to find daily Hip Hop content. Uncle Ralph knew the show was big, but wouldn’t know exactly how big until he televised the first Hip Hop concert, Fresh Fest, in 1985.

“I went to Russell [Simmons], who by that time was managing all the groups, and said look I wanna tape Fresh Fest, because this was the first Hip Hop tour with all of the big names on it. Run DMC. Whodini. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. LL [Cool J] was an opening act because he only had one or two songs. Russell was like no problem, speak to my assistant Lyor Cohen (who now is the Chairman of Warner Music Group). So, I taped the whole show backstage with one camera. I’m literally finishing up an interview then rushing front stage so I could get the next act coming on so I could get all the songs — because this is the first time people will see them performing live other than in the clubs.

I was on the camera too for that show, so people recognized me, and thats when they realized that I was part of that show. People started coming up to me going yo, that show that you did for Fresh Fest was crazy. And thats how people began to really get on to the show because it was the first time a Hip Hop concert was aired on television.”

Uncle Ralph shared VMB hosting and production duties with his childhood friend, Lionel C. Martin, better known as The Vid Kid. The two grew up together, DJing as teenagers throughout The City.

“The Vid Kid was in a Pre-Law program at City College and at the end he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. So I was like, why don’t you come over here and mess with me with this TV thing because its just like how when we were DJing, man. Its the same thing except its video. So he started getting involved in producing the show and hosting it.”



Greg Calloway said...

Amazing history. I remember when the Fresh Fest producer asked me to have Lyor Cohen call him recently. I witnessed the two catching up after years. Is there any place to buy all the old footage?

Greg Calloway

The Company Man said...

Its truly amazing to think about the commercial growth of hip hop. russ, lyor, ralph, etc etc etc they knew what they were doing very early on. Thats a good question. Ralph's website OnFumes.com has a bunch of footage. He may be willing to sell copies. hit him up. he's crazy approachable.