An Interview with Ralph McDaniels, Queens Library’s Hip Hop Coordinator!

Posted by: yetheart, December 29, 2015 6:36 pm
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Ralph McDaniels

Legendary DJ, VJ, producer, and hip hop pioneer "Uncle" Ralph McDaniels has joined Queens Library as our first Hip Hop Coordinator!

Ralph graciously answered a few quick questions for us about his plans for his new role, which books you should pick up to learn more about hip hop history, and more!

You grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. What role did Queens Library play in your life?
I visited the Central Library in Jamaica and the Queens Village branch the most as a teen. It was a place I could do research as well as socialize. In the ‘80s, I also helped build a nightclub called Encore on Merrick Boulevard—exactly where the Central Library’s Teen section is now!

What are some of your plans for your new role as Hip Hop Coordinator? And what types of events do you want to develop for the Queens community?
I want to create a Queens Hip Hop Timeline that represents both the entire borough and all the elements of hip hop: DJing, B-Boying (dance), MCing, Graph (also known as graffiti), and Knowledge.

Our first events were in December and they very successful. We welcomed Queens hip hop pioneer Dr. Glenn Toby, graph artist Chief 69, the best step masters from the most prestigious fraternities and sororities, and the one and only Darryl “DMC” McDaniels!

For the future, I’d like to develop beatboxing workshops, graph art exhibits, more celebrity and hip-hop pioneer lectures, question-and-answer sessions with hip-hop authors, and much more.

If there’s anyone who’s qualified to answer this question, it’s you—who are the three greatest hip-hop artists from Queens? And what are the three greatest hip-hop albums of all time?
As far as artists—definitely LL Cool J, Nas, and Kool G. Rap.

For albums, I’d say Illmatic by Nas, Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G., and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan.

Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island represented—New York truly is the birthplace of hip hop! Speaking of which, you’ve been a part of hip hop since its birth 40 years ago. What’s the most surprising difference between hip hop then and now?
Forty years ago, we did it for fun, but now most people do it for money, then for the culture.

Can you recommend any books or movies for people who want to learn more about hip hop and its history?
For books, I’d recommend The Gospel of Hip Hop by KRS-One; The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop by Dan Charnas; and Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang.

Krush Groove (1985) and Wild Style (1983) are two great movies showing the early days of hip hop, and Juice (1992) is a classic where the story, soundtrack, and actors all connect and capture a moment in history.

How would you describe hip hop for people who are unfamiliar with it? What do you think is most important about hip hop?
Hip hop is the most popular cultural phenomenon of the past 30 years, because it reaches and inspires all cultures, all over the world, through music and dance.