You’re Watching Video Music Box (2021)

The story of Video Music Box is long, long overdue. Video Music Box existed in a world where everyone “wanted their MTV.” While MTV hesitated to play music from people of color well in to the eighties, “Video Music Box” was a New York institution that proudly played music videos and performances from African American and minority artists that were legendary and up and comers, and for that it continues to be heralded by iconic music artists.

Iconic hip hop artist Nasir “Nas” Jones tells the untold story of the world’s longest running video show, “Video Music Box.” A hip hop mainstay since 1983, VMB (with its classic theme song) gave a platform to artists like Jay-Z, Nas and Mary J. Blige before they hit it big. Host Ralph McDaniels’ archives – amassed over 40 nearly years – reveal the show’s importance to numerous big-name musicians, as well as to the kids that grew up watching.

“Video Music Box” was and continues to be a respected institution, especially if you’ve grown up in New York or the Bronx. For folks that didn’t relate to or connect with MTV, Ral[ph McDaniels always gave them a space to appreciate artists that were destined for great things and just looking for a voice and platform. There’s no denying the impact “Video Music Box” had on many artists past and present, and Nasir Jones pays a loving tribute to the series and how much it changed music. Although MTV gets a lot of the credit in its decade, Ralph McDaniels was the one making the news, and giving New Yorkers a glimpse at artists and voices that were on their level.

Folks like Queen Latifah, Notorious B.I.G., Common, Mos Def, and Jay Z are featured in clips as up and comers anxious to be seen by an audience, and it’s exciting to see how much foresight Ralph McDaniels had in a world that preceded the internet and the digital age. Director Jones sits down with Mr. McDaniels discussing the origins of the series, and how it began as a low budget series on a lo-fi public access channel, to a beloved series that inevitably changed hands, and networks. McDaniels fought hard to keep his series in tact, and devoted much of his life to the vision of the series in highlighting new voices in music.

Even in the face of gentrification in the Bronx, McDaniels is an adamant voice for artists of color. Nasir Jones is the face of humility, as he allows McDaniels to discuss in exhaustive detail about the life of the series. On occasion he discusses his own emotions about the show and what it means to him, and even sits down with fellow icons, all of whom boast about what the series means to them. “You’re Watching Video Music Box” isn’t just a nostalgic re-visit to the eighties (how can you not love that theme song?), but a well deserved tribute to one of the greatest music programs ever created.