(ViacomCBS) – Showtime Documentary You are watching Video Music Box Narrates the evolution of founder Ralph McDaniel’s life and career and the atomic influence on his program video music box Made on American culture.
Emmy and Grammy-winning music legend Nasir “Nas” Jones directed the documentary, which premiered December 3 at 8pm EST/PT with never-before-seen footage from the world’s longest running music video show. The film is part of SHOWTIME’s HIP HOP 50 initiative, to celebrate the genre’s 50th anniversary.
Pioneering hip-hop influencer ‘Uncle Ralph’ sat down with CBS Katie Johnston before the first show.
kilojoules- Today, I am absolutely honored to speak with the same man, MC Ralph McDaniels, the visionary and the face behind him. video music box. Thanks so much for hanging out with me today.
RM- Thank you for having me. I’m excited, yes.
kilojoules- I’m excited for everyone to see this documentary. I got a pre-screened for it myself. It’s hard to know exactly where to begin when asking you questions because I feel like we have a lot to talk about today. I guess to start this conversation, where did the idea for the documentary come from for you guys?
RM- You know, Nas is the director and Nas is the guy I worked with. She directed his first video for his debut album, Ilmatic. So it’s 360 degrees from my point of view and Nas’s work with each other. It’s a Spiritual Journey, the documentary about growing up as a kid in music. One of those kids was, you know, fiddling with my parents’ vinyl records and things like that.
Now I have a chance to work with Nas and bring all of this together. So it’s the journey of a young man from Brooklyn and Queens who then got into the music business and picked up a camera, no one had a camera at the time. Now everyone has a phone with a camera.
You go to a concert and it’s kind of annoying, in fact, when you see everyone holding their phones. But this is the world we live in. At the time, I was the only person with a camera and I picked up this camera and started documenting what was happening around me. It started in 1983 and we are still doing it today.
kilojoules- I’m so glad you mentioned Nas right away because for decades you told the stories of so many artists before the world knew they were artists. You yourself are an artist. I was a DJ before you started video music box in the eighties. This kind of feels like the first time we’re really hearing your story.
RM- Yes Yes. It’s definitely an untold story, which is great, I love documentaries. I watch documentaries about everything, about whales, about anything. So discovering something you might not have known has always been interesting to me.
I think the audience would be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this existed, and I didn’t know that this show had such an effect, you know, on a guy like the NAs or Jay-Z or Diddy or whatever the Queen is cute. All these people Those who attended the show when they first started and were breezy, weren’t quite as polished as they are today.
kilojoules- This is especially true of the younger generations, who have no idea what happened before they arrived on Earth, right? It would be really interesting to see the history of this genre. I really want to ask you this because you obviously had a great time remembering some of those memories just from watching the documentary. I’m sure there are endless libraries of content I’ve produced from the show’s years of success. Seeing some of those footage in the documentary, some of which have never been seen before, and some of it, how did it feel to relive those moments while working on the documentary?
RM- When I look back at the footage, it feels like it was yesterday to me. I’m like, “Wow, I remember that event.” I remember what happened when I was going there. I remember what happened when I was there and when I left. I remember everything about her.
For me, I know that; But, let’s say my daughter, who you know, is a producer, is 35 and she’s like, “What were your guys wearing at the time?” Clothes are what you find fun, dance styles and things like that. So it’s a different experience for people.
I think it’s fun and it’s been two tough years. I think if you feel good about something, this is a movie that will make you feel good. If you’re a music fan or even if you’re not into it, you know, it was just a fun time.
kilojoules- It’s clear Ralph that TV and music have played a huge role in your life. Looking back now, how does it feel to see the impact you have had on the culture and societies of so many people through television and music?
RM- I feel like this was a gift that was given to me from watching people like, you know, Don Cornelius and Sol Train and American Bandstand with Dick Clark, all the different people who came before me doing music on TV. I took a little bit of what these guys did and made it what I was doing. I never wanted to be a TV star at all. I just wanted to introduce music. It kind of happened.
And then to see the impact that we had on some of the music artists, the directors, the music producers, the general public in fashion and the manner, people wore clothes, and in general, it was amazing. People told me they came from outside the United States. They learned how to be American by watching my show. You know, kids can be powerful when you first come to this country from somewhere else, people choose you, maybe because of the way you talk or whatever.
People will say they will watch video music box They will learn how to pronounce certain words so that they can feel comfortable in their school and not be criticized. It has been amazing to me to learn things like this from some of the people who have watched the show over the years.
kilojoules- This is really just one microcosm, which I feel like from your software because it really has that aspect of inclusivity. This was something that really resonated with people when they first started watching it and it obviously led to a lot of success for you.
RM- There’s a section in the movie where we’ve been into this thing called Fresh Fest, and that’s when I realized how diverse hip-hop is. You had South Bronx people and black and Latino people, and then you had white people and you had Asian people. You had all these different genres, but we were all there for the same thing: to listen to artists and listen to music. This brought us all together.
That was really, at that very moment, the first time I saw this in person. I was like, this music is really powerful, and that’s when I knew it would go a long way.
kilojoules- By the way, I loved hearing you talk about it in the documentary. I want to ask you before I let you go because I have 1,000 questions I can ask you. Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you would like to include or would like to talk about?
RM- The thing for me is that the history of hip-hop is just as important as any other kind of music. At first, it was seen as a fashion. Now it’s the number one type of music that influences everything, every ad, every kind of movie, everything you see. You hear some hip-hop music playing in the background. So the date is important.
A lot of people, just like me and me, never get our chance to go out and tell people our story and the influences we had when it was probably like 500 of us were into hip-hop. I’m so glad we’ll get the chance to publish this content there. The history of hip hop is very important.
kilojoules- It is very important. I want to thank you very much, Ralph. Thank you for your talents. Thanks for sharing it with us, but also thank you for hanging out with me today.
RM- Thank you. Okay. I was watching Music Box Video, mMake sure to watch it!
Watch the movie premiere You are watching Video Music Box December 3 at 8PM EST/PT EXCLUSIVELY ON SHOWTIME.