BY KYLE VUILLE
Hip-hop’s Boogie Down birthplace leaned back last night.
Fat Joe and many others return to their native borough of The Bronx to host the Element of Hip Hop awards, an annual nod to The Bronx being hip hop’s birthplace in the 1970s.
An event massive enough to have Mott Haven’s Alexander Avenue closed off by the NYPD, it’s an event done by Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s to honor four legends of the rap game a year.
Bronx native and Cold Crush Brothers member Grandmaster Caz said it best as he introduced crowd favorite Fat Joe to speak on stage at Beatstro, a South Bronx restaurant dedicated to hip hop.
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“To artists that come from Bronx that keep reinforcing our role and the role we played in this culture, it could have been forgotten,” Caz said. “Shout out to people like KRS-One and all the other artists who made anthems and kept the Bronx on their backs.”
This year’s honorees included owner of The Source Magazine Londell McMillian, founder of Fever Records Sal Abbatiello, VJ and video director of Video Music Box Ralph McDaniels, and famous producer and rapper Slick Rick.
Other mentionable attendees included Caz, Joe, and another hip hop pioneer Melle Mel, who works with Caz to not only put on the awards but to also do philanthropy work throughout the borough.
Also, a surprise performance by DJ Red Alert brought the crowd to a fever pitch.
“The important part of this event is to promote and preserve hip-hop and this is what it is,” CEO of the Windows of Hip-Hop Melissa Libran said.
That sentiment was reiterated when McDaniels told amNewYorkMetro he started his show, Video Music Box over 35 years ago, ‘because no one else on television was playing hip hop at the time and felt the need to fill the gap.’
“We started in 1983, there weren’t other TV shows out at that time playing Hip Hop videos or interviewing hip hop artists, going to all the clubs that used to exist back then, and I was the only guy, and people used to go ‘what are you doing this for?” McDaniels said. “I would say, ‘I got this TV show, its called Video Music Box.’ Now they call it the Hub, for everyone to go to and watch the latest videos or the latest interviews.”
Fat Joe even shared a personal memory with McDaniels, telling the Beatstro crowd that one of his fondest memories as a kid was running home at 3 p.m. after school to watch Video Music Box.
“Ralph McDaniels gave me a chance before I even had a record deal,” Fat Joe said. “He definitely doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done for hip hop.”
Fat Joe also praised honoree Sal Abbatiello for being one of the true trailblazers of hip- hop.
“I want to shout out to Sal Abbatiello who is one of the biggest pioneers of hip hop,” Fat Joe said. “Sal helped push hip-hop to another level and he’s also my first manager ever in rap music so that’s that connection.”
Abbatiello founded Fever Records and opened the Disco Fever in 1976, one of the first hip-hop clubs in the south Bronx. He pulled talent like the infamous Grandmaster Flash from the streets and the scene only expanded more. In the coming years, Disco Fever saw turntable talent such as Luv-Bug Starski, DJ Hollywood, Eddie Cheba, DJ Jun-Bug, Brucie Bee, Sweet Gee, and Reggie Wells.
The night capped off with a speech by honoree Slick Rick, who zealously emphasized the future is in the hands of true innovators.
“The world is getting boring, it’s boring us, so we got to use our gifts to cure boredom,” Rick said.