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Ralph “Uncle Ralph” McDaniels (born February 29, ? in Brooklyn, NY) is a hip-hop culture pioneer, entrepreneur, and visionary who created Video Music Box, the first music video show focused exclusively to an urban market—broadcast on public television. Widely recognized by the music industry as the original tastemaker of the streets, McDaniels became more commonly known as Uncle Ralph in 1995 when Kool DJ Red Alert started calling him that on his radio show.
McDaniels is president of Uncle Ralph Productions, an on-air radio personality at New York’s WQHT and is one of the executive producers of The Bridge, which he also hosts. He is also a co-owner of Onfumes.com.
McDaniels influence in hip-hop culture stems from the astounding success of his 20-year hip-hop music show and spans over 25 years through the millions of viewers, fans, and consumers who have supported him throughout his endeavors in radio, television, and the fashion industry.
Video Music Box
Growing up in both Brooklyn and Queens, McDaniels, aspired to be a DJ. He attended New York Institute of Technology where he studied Communications–TV–Film and graduated in 1982. It was at this time that he started noticing an alarming array of talented hip-hop artists continuously being rejected and suppressed by mainstream media, and he wanted to give those overlooked artists a platform where they could be acknowledged by the consumers who craved them.
McDaniels decided to take matters into his own hands and approached a local TV station with an idea to host a music-video show. It was not enthusiastic about McDaniels’ idea but instead allowed him to host another popular local show with the same concept called Studio 31 Dance Party on WNYC-TV, a public-broadcasting station owned by the City of New York. After about a year of hosting that show, McDaniels got the opportunity to produce a show the way he originally wanted to do it and he appropriately named it Video Music Box (VMB).
It was not long before VMB’s 6-day, 60-minute public television viewership began to grow far beyond what any of the cable networks had expected. By 1995, Billboard magazine recognized the show and awarded VMB as the Best Local R&B/Hip-hop Regional Show. Additionally, the show was also notably voted as the Top-10 Greatest Hip Hop TV Moments by VH1 in 2003. By 2005, over 192,000 households per week were regularly viewing VMB. McDaniels had shined a light on an undertapped urban audience and literally answered its outcries against mainstream media’s disregard of its favorite artists with VMB.
In 1985, McDaniels became the first to broadcast a hip-hop tour, Fresh Fest, on VMB, which featured many of today’s hip-hop icons such as Run D.M.C., LL Cool J, Whodini, and many others. It was also through the broadcast of VMB that McDaniels was able to successfully register over 10,000 voters, which earned McDaniels tremendous respect and accolades in throughout the City of New York.
In 2010 McDaniels took the ground-breaking Video Music Box a step further and launched Video Music Box Global on WNYC-TV.
Film and Production
The success of Video Music Box became just one brick in the foundation that McDaniels would lay in hip-hop culture. It was not long after VMB started that McDaniels began to grow tired of the substandard quality of some of the videos that he aired. Believing he could do a better job of producing videos for some of these emerging artists, McDaniels partnered with childhood friend Lionel C. Martin (The Vid Kid) and co-founded Classic Concepts Productions, a film- and video-production company that produced over 300 music videos, commercials, films, and documentaries between 1987 and 1997. Most notably, Classic Concepts was instrumental in producing videos for such greats as Public Enemy, the Notorious B.I.G, Big Daddy Kane, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan—with McDaniels producing and Martin directing these clips.
McDaniels reputation in the street was becoming as famous as it was over the airwaves. An inmate from Rahway State Prison wrote McDaniels about a government-sponsored hip-hop music program at the prison and McDaniels immediately took an interest in the story and went to the prison to film a documentary about the program called The Lifers' Group at Rahway State Prison, which aired on VMB, and was nominated for an Emmy in 1990.
McDaniels has interviewed former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Reverend Jesse Jackson, legendary salsa singer Celia Cruz, and reported from the National Democratic Convention, just to name a few.
McDaniels hip-hop street credibility later led him to be approached by producers of the groundbreaking film Juice, which starred Tupac Shakur, where he was asked to serve as a consultant to the film and was given the job of associate producer. McDaniels jumped at the opportunity to contribute his talents and connections to this urban film classic and additionally assisted the film’s writer, Ernest Dickerson, in re-writing the script.
With radio, TV, and film under his belt, McDaniels had his feet firmly planted in almost every facet of hip-hop culture. In 1996, McDaniels would go on to add fashion to his repertoire with the creation of a New York Urban Fashion show called “The Phat Fashion”, which would feature the urban clothing lines of designers such as FUBU and Karl Kani, the clothing of which McDaniels helped to make popular on his show. Soon after, McDaniels further cemented his place within the urban fashion scene with the launch of Uncle Ralph’s Urban Gear, a Brooklyn-based clothing store and T-shirt line.
By 1997, McDaniels was hired as an on-air personality to host a hip-hop radio show on New York’s Hot 97 that reached over 6 million listeners within the Tri-State area.
In 2006, Matthew Tollin, formerly of NYC TV, who had gotten to know McDaniels because of the station's longstanding association with Video Music Box, introduced him to the station's then-General Manager, Arick Wierson. Wierson proposed that McDaniels utilize his robust repository of original hip hop classic videos to develop an "old school" music video program showcasing early rap videos from the 1980s.
Recognizing a need to keep up with today’s technology and sense a of responsibility to his audience, McDaniels developed the Video Music Box archives and offered MTV and VH1 access to feature music programming from his vast library of over 20,000 hours of video.
In 2006, McDaniels was approached with the idea to create an online version of his groundbreaking show. Two years later, McDaniels along with a business partner officially launched Onfumes.com, an interactive video hosting/on-demand Web site where registered users could have unlimited access to McDaniel’s archived collection of hip-hop and R&B videos, never-seen-before interviews, behind-the scenes footage, and access to up-and-coming urban artists and filmmakers.
Additional Awards & Honors
- 1993- America’s Best & Brightest Award, Dollars & Sense Magazine
- 1994- Awarded Role Model of the Year by the City Council of New York
- 1995- Award for Emmy Nomination of The Lifers Group at Rahway State Prison, Billboard Magazine
- 2001- Honored by Urban Network Magazine for dedication & service
- 2007- Heineken Red Star Soul Award recipient
- "Ralph McDaniels". Retrieved 2008-09-14.