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Rudy Ray Moore 1927-2008

(Dolemite Theatrical Trailer – 1975… NSFW)

Others will write about how Rudy Ray Moore in many ways laid the groundwork for the African American comedy, music, and rap explosion of the late 70s and early 80s. How the “party record” circuit in many ways showed for the first time there was a voracious market of African American consumers (even in disadvantaged neighbourhoods) who where starved for any kind of material that actually spoke to them directly. The number of contemporary hip-hop, r&b, and rap artists who claim they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing without Moore (or Red Foxx) is proof enough of that.

Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that’s for real.

-Tha Dogfather

I remember the first time I ever saw Dolemite, and was blown away by an almost pure expression of independent cinema. Here were a group of self-financed, self taught, street hustlers with no film experience. There are no shortage of criticisms you can level at the film (or Moore’s other blaxploitation staples: The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw, and Disco Godfather) they’re misogynist, foul-mouthed, and often technically amateur (and I’d be lying if I said that period kitsch fascination wasn’t a huge part of their longevity) – but they were absolutely the vanguard of the low-budget independent movement. Each of those films was solid proof that one didn’t need millions of dollars, or a studio, to make a feature film (also, you apparently didn’t need actors, technical crew, fight choreographers, a script, special effects, or an ending). What you did need was the desire to tell a certain story, in a certain way that spoke to an audience.

It’s absolutely fascinating to me that most of the criticisms that one could level against Moore’s early work could be equally applied to the recent Nollywood movement in Nigeria. One could almost do a point-by-point comparison between the two easily (film theory majors in need of thesis topics take note).

In a couple of later interviews I read with Rudy Ray Moore, he seemed frustrated at how much the systems he had laid the groundwork for had become co-opted by “the man”. Rap, R&B, and even “independent” film are once again the domain of the major labels and studios. As someone who drove town to town, selling self-pressed comedy records out of the trunk of his car, I’m sure it was tough seeing others make far more financially successful careers with only a modicum of his drive (simply because of fate, timing, or their accessibility to a wider audience), but to his credit Rudy Ray Moore knew how important his contributions had been (and would tell anyone who cared to listen, along with delivering his trademark smack-talk) until the end.

Rest in peace Rudy, we know that Dolemite hasn’t quit – he’s just run out of ass to kick down here and gone off looking for a better challenge.