Comedy legend and Oscar-nominee Eddie Murphy has been pretty removed from Hollywood for almost a decade. But now, he's back on his comedic throne in Netflix's Dolemite Is My Name, a true story about a real actor, and underdog-turned-success: Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite.
Now that the film is hitting the streaming service on October 25, a wider audience will get to see Murphy step into the role of influential Black comedian, musician, film producer. The Murphy-led film tells the true story of how Moore created the character of Dolemite, after years of struggling to make his mark in the music world, and was subsequently able to build a lasting career that inspired the Black community.
Who Is Rudy Ray Moore?
Moore was born on March 17, 1927 and grew up singing in church, according to the New York Times. He was drafted in 1950, and after his discharge he started to make music under the name in Rudy Moore. However, he didn't really hit his stride in the industry until he found the character that would change everything...
When Dolemite Was Created
In 1970, he had a genius idea, or so the story goes: Moore was inspired by the stories of a record store customer named Rico, some of which involved someone named Dolemite. From there, Moore turned these stories into a character in comedy routines and songs.
Next Came Dolemite Albums & Songs
But Moore didn't stop there. Dolemite Is My Name follows as Moore hustles to make Dolemite a success in multiple arenas. After he created the character in 1970, he released his first music-comedy album called Eat Out More Often. Here's a sample of the first track, "Dolemite":
And if your brain is already going to the dirtiest interpretation of that title, consider this: The covers to his records were very suggestive — you could say Moore embraced the period's rampant sexual revolution — and were generally not allowed to be displayed in record stores (see: above). So yeah, that's what he means by "Eat Out."
Then, The Dolemite Movie Came Out
The earnings from the records funded the 1975 blaxploitation movie Dolemite, which Moore also co-wrote and cost just $100,000, per the Times. The movie about a pimp and nightclub owner who, after serving a 20-year sentence, decides to seek revenge on the man who set him up, became a cult classic and enough of a hit to earn a sequel, The Human Tornado.
Why Moore Was Called "The Godfather Of Rap"
Moore earned this title because multiple hip-hop artists, including Dre. Dre, uses parts of his recordings in their work or, at the very least, imitate him in their own lyrics. If you take a listen to his albums, or the music from Dolemite, it's easy to see why:
When the soundtrack to Dolemite was released in 2006, Snoop Dogg wrote in the liner notes, “Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that’s for real" (via the New York Times).
Moore created his own path in music and comedy, which he explained, in a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, as the reason he was able to find success: "This was my motto: 'Don't come up with routine stuff,'" he said, adding, “My greatest thrill is that I can take my original career, which was a rock 'n' roll singer and which I never made it in, and I can take it today and turn it around and make it work for me.”
Now, Moore Is A Legend
Leading up to the release of Dolemite Is My Name, Netflix dropped a brief oral history of Moore's work, but even that only scrapes the surface of the magnitude of Moore’s impact. In it, Snoop Dogg, who makes an appearance in the movie, refers to Moore as being “like the first black superhero.” Grammy Award-winning blues musician Bobby Rush praises the groundbreaking icon, saying, “Rudy was one of the first black men to self-produce movies for other black neighborhoods." Murphy calls Moore “hysterically funny” but also recognizes the struggle it took for Moore to become a success. During the '70s wave of blaxploitation films, “he had to come in the backdoor even in that era,” Murphy says.
In a cast filled with stars like Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Wesley Snipes, and more, Murphy’s particular connection to the film stands out. He told the Los Angeles Times that when he was a teenager his brother Charlie told Murphy he had to see The Human Tornado. Murphy would listen to Moore’s albums when he started what would become an unmatched stand-up and movie star career. After meeting Moore before he died, Murphy became passionate about telling Moore’s story and has worked for 16 years to get it made. “Rudy Ray Moore was the crudest,” Murphy said in the LA Times interview. “But he believed in himself, and he wanted the world to know he existed.”
Now, with the help of a star-studded cast, Murphy will ensure that just about everyone knows that.