Here’s something about turning 50 that I know I wasn’t prepared for: seeing your childhood and formative years put in documentary form on screen. I’d gotten used to seeing the generation before me immortalized on screen, with their struggles and successes from civil rights to Olympic fights. But lately, it’s been my generation whose stories are being told–in real time–from the perils of 9/11 to the formation of hip hop. That’s what happened last week with the debut of the Nasir Jones-produced You’re Watching Video Music Box on Showtime, where Nas and creator (and living legend) Ralph McDaniels documented the beginnings of what became a cultural monument: Video Music Box.
It got me emotional at times, seeing New York in all its glory and the path hip hop took to become the number one genre in music. Seeing how McDaniels literally just picked up a microphone and started talking to up-and-coming MCs whenever he saw them made me smile, knowing how much hustle he had in his veins just to make it happen.
To think, it all started from an internship in the city.
I love everything about the documentary and the archived footage that literally gave us the origin performances for iconic artists like Mary J. Blige, Nas, Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan. I love all of the back-in-the-day interviews with hip hop heroes Big Daddy Kane, a young D-Nice, Foxy Brown, Will Smith, and Jay-Z. I loved seeing how the Vid Kid (Lionel C. Martin) first appeared on camera and went from being super shy to becoming one of the biggest music video directors of his generation. Of course I loved seeing Crazy Sam’s antics, and footage from all the old New York City clubs, and how Ralph had to be convinced to see the need for selling records, thinking that MCing in the park was the only thing to see.
Everything about watching You’re Watching Video Music Box will make you feel old. And good. It will help you to see how a man with a vision can be unstoppable. How his foresight and ingenuity is responsible for so much of hip hop’s history. How he earned the name Uncle Ralph.
If you haven’t watched it yet, please stop what you’re doing, grab a snack and head over to Showtime and give it some love. You’ll be amazed by everything a local UHF station in Manhattan spawned, with no commercials. No rules. Just music. Just hip hop.
I promise, it will have you in your feelings, even if you didn’t live every second of it as I did. Shout out to Nas and Uncle Ralph for a job well done. Respect.
I will admit to watching Sex and the City back in the day, but I tell you this… I have no desire to watch the latest reboot, just as I had no desire to see the subsequent films. Not sure why, but it’s a Nah, B for me.
There are some scenes during ABC’s Queens where you can tell the director is attempting to camoflauge Eve’s pregnancy. And then there are some scenes where they seem to just say, Ah well. What can you do? Thankfully this past week’s episode will allow her to rest and make their decisions easier for a while.
I wrote a long post about it on Instagram, but let me share here how it’s almost that time for me to bust out the Christmas Eve on Sesame Street DVD and wax nostalgic about watching it every year while growing up in my parent’s house in Queens. Just brings back great memories and makes me miss simpler times.
Swagger has been a great series as far as basketball is concerned, showing the ins and outs of being part of a youth team while balancing what makes great television: emotion and investment. With all that said, it’s been really great to see O’Shea Jackson, Jr. given this platform to show what he’s got as an actor. he could’ve easily been the weak link in the series but instead has been the standout part of it. Great job by him.
I’m about to start diving into Paramount Plus’ Mayor of Kingstown this week. Anyone who’s watching it, please chime in and let me know if it’s something that’s worth the time and effort. I usually like Kyle Chandler, but after the mess that was American Rust I’m a bit gunshy on investing in a lot of limited series.
I want to use this space to say Rest in Peace to a cultural icon that influenced the way so many Black writers ply their craft. Greg Tate was a great writer, an accomplished musician, a wonderful friend to many, and more importantly a voice that could be trusted. I didn’t know him personally but I made sure I followed him on Facebook years ago just so I would be sure to get his take on whatever happened in the world. He was a giant that will be sorely missed. Thankfully we have his words archived to remind us how great writers put words together. We were blessed by his presence. Sleep well, brother.
What are you watching? Please leave a comment and let me know.