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Since the early 1980s, McDaniels, a Brooklyn native of Trinidadian and Tobagonian descent, has filmed and documented the evolution of rap, from the genre’s earliest prehistory to the coronation of some of its most prominent figures. His show has notably featured legendary artists such as Nas, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Run-DMC.

The beginnings of hip-hop were far from smooth. McDaniels recalls the challenges in securing a contract for a hip-hop artist or placing a record in a store. However, the success of Run-DMC marked a decisive turning point. “Indeed, we were conversing with them on the street corner, and the next day they were on stage at Madison Square Garden,” he nostalgically states.

McDaniels was not merely a witness but also an active participant, producing iconic music videos for renowned artists like Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan. His work reflects an era where, according to him, “the words we spoke truly corresponded to what was occurring on the street.”

Today, at the age of 61, McDaniels is turning his focus towards preserving this rich and complex history. He is working on digitizing approximately 20,000 hours of footage contained within his vast stockpile of old videotapes, in the hope that these archives will serve to convey the memory of an era to future generations.

“It is vital because it narrates the story of our culture, and it cannot be discarded casually,” McDaniels emphasizes. His contribution to culture has already been acknowledged by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, which has included in its collections the microphone he used for “Video Music Box.”

Currently serving as the hip-hop activities coordinator for the Queens libraries in New York, McDaniels continues to play an active role in his community, working to pass down the legacy of hip-hop to younger generations. He views libraries as a “safe space” where youth can learn and find opportunities.

McDaniels’ wealth of experience and dedication to the preservation of hip-hop culture make him an emblematic figure of a bygone era, whose impact continues to resonate in contemporary music and culture. The nostalgic memory he retains of this period is a living testament to the genre’s evolution, from its roots in the underprivileged neighborhoods of New York to its ascent onto the global stage.

With AFP

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