20 Years Of 36 Chambers: Uncle Ralph Talks Directing Wu-Tang’s Early Videos
Bar none, Uncle Ralph fathered the hip hop visuals game. Not only did his brainchild, Video Music Box, structure the template for hosting and airing music videos, predating Yo! MTV Raps by several years, he also helmed many of our favorite rap videos from yesteryear. Few souls in the rap game can lay claim to such vision and foresight. In fact even his nickname speaks to that: He was “Uncle” Ralph before Snoop was “Uncle” Snoop.
As he was ushering in the rap video era, he encountered a tall, skinny rapper/producer with a funny sounding name who had the crazy idea of releasing a single with no hook and nine MCs going for theirs. But first their video had to be finished. The funny named MC dropped by Uncle Ralph’s office to show him the still rough and unfinished clip.
Ralph being the visionary he is knew that the group was something special immediately. He agreed to finish the project and Wu Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck” video was born. Read on to learn more about the exhilarating yet harrowing experience of meeting and working with the Wu for the first time.
When was the first time you heard the name Wu Tang and what did you think?
I probably heard it from Rza. I knew it had to do with hip-hop and Kung Fu movies and the martial arts. Once I heard them rap I thought that they should be called [Wu Tang] because it made sense. It made sense that he would move how he was moving and had his team moving the same way. It was dope that they all believed in the vision. Someone else might not have believed.
How many of Wu’s videos have you directed?
I did “C.R.E.A.M.” for the Clan and then did a few joints for Raekwon including “Incarcerated Scarfaces.” We shot “C.R.E.A.M.” on Staten Island mostly but we filmed that “Incarcerated Scarfaces” up in Harlem on 120th and 1st. I also shot “Heaven Or Hell” for Rae and Ghost. I don’t recall the name of the spot we filmed that but it was the spot at the time on Broadway. Fat Joe came though that shoot and popped up in the video. I had been doing Fat Joe’s videos so I knew how big of a deal it was for a dude from the Bronx to come and show love to Wu. I also remember when we shot “Ice Cream,” in Jamaica, Queens. Right there in the mall, The Coliseum. I also shot a few affiliate Wu videos but those are the main ones.
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