The other day on m’man Combat Jack‘s Daily Mathematics, I cited that as much as BET‘s programming sucks today, it’s always been more or less a glorified music video channel. Sure, I’ve been interested in a few non-musical things they aired back in the day, but for the most part? It was all about the videos. But when my TV wasn’t locked in on that channel, it was on “Channel 37”, better known as The Box.
For those who don’t remember this station or never heard of it, lemme explain. It was a TV station that ran just like a jukebox. It had hundreds of videos, and each video had its own 3-digit code. The names of the videos and the codes would be displayed at the bottom of the screen, and for $2.50, you could call in and request a video by punching the code in on the phone. In hindsight, the idea of paying to see a video sounds like something a ruh-tard would do, but it was some innovative shit in the pre-YouTube era.
The Box was also known for airing videos that were banned from MTV and BET. Before sexual content and T&A became more accepted by those stations, The Box was runnin’ them with no problem. 2 Live Crew‘s “Pop That Coochie”, Sir Mix-A-Lot‘s “Put ‘Em On The Glass”, Adina Howard‘s “Up & Down”, all them freak-ass videos Madonna did… all over the screen at any time of day. It was also the place to catch unedited versions of videos that were cut up elsewhere due to violence. There was no chance of catching Biggie‘s “Warning” with the Scarface-ish ending or Dr. Dre & Ice Cube‘s “Natural Born Killaz” elsewhere, but they were getting called up on The Box like mad.
Me and my older brother both watched the hell outta The Box. I’d be downstairs and he’d be upstairs, and whenever a good vid came on, we’d be yelling “Yo… 37!” up and down the steps. I even went to school with a buncha Box junkies. One of us could say a part from a commercial or video that only aired on that channel (like this piece of hilarity), and everybody knew it. I watched it so much, I started knowing the numbers to the damn videos. Each time a person called in and made a request, it was shown on-screen, and I’d know which one was next on some “ohh, #405– ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ comin’ on” shit.
HOWEVER… there was this one lil’ slight minor drawback, and anyone who remembers will agree. Because it was totally controlled by the callers, muhfukkas could call and request a video as many times as they wanted. That meant whenever a popular new vid would drop (i.e. Bone Thugs‘ “Crossroads”), you might see that shit 10 times over the course of one hour. Sometimes, just as it was going off, someone would call and request it again, and it’d pop right back on. Some days, shit just went overboard- I’d be like “aight come on, how many fukkin’ times y’all gon’ watch Kris Kross? They gonna jump higher this time?”
Ahh well, can’t win ’em all. The positives of The Box outweighed that lil’ negative by far. Whenever BET wasn’t poppin’ and MTV wasn’t playin’ jackshit I wanted to see, I could always count on channel 37 to come thru in the clutch. Where else was I gonna get to see those priceless low-budget Miami Bass videos with all the ass in ’em, or groups like Jamiroquai waaay before the mainstream caught wind of them?
Around 2000, MTV bought the The Box, and it got replaced by MTV2 in most cities. It was bound to die out anyway with the growth of the internet, and even if it had thrived, the advent of YouTube would’ve killed it for sure. But from its early years as the Video Jukebox Network (when Luke and Hammer practically RAN it) through its peak of popularity around the mid-to-late-’90s, “Music Television YOU Control” was the spot.