NEW YORK — Rudy Ray Moore, known across the world as Dolemite, is a dirty old man and he loves it. “Way down in the jungle deep/ The bad-ass lion stepped on the signifying monkey’s feet,” he said in his full glory, performing one of his most famous skits, “The Signifying Monkey,” Monday night at the Village Underground.
In town to promote his new CD, 21st Century Dolemite, and seven-DVD box set, which includes some of his movies and stand-up acts, Rudy Ray is taking time out to do what’s become second nature to him over the past 30-plus years — rapping and singing, and telling some of the dirtiest jokes you’ll ever hear.
“The monkey said muthaf—er can’t you see?” he continued over the applause. “Why you standing on my damn feet?”
Rhyming to convey his blue humor has made Moore an icon not only in comedic circles, but in the hip-hop community as well. He said he’s been sampled 79 times by various hip-hop artists (Dr. Dre’s “Deeez Nuuuts” being one of the most popular). The 2 Live Crew and the group’s founder, Luther Campbell, have called on him to appear on a few of their songs; he’s appeared in such videos as Eric B. and Rakim’s 1990 clip “In the Ghetto”; and most recently he’s been featured signifying on the intro to Busta Rhymes’ Genesis album.
“I don’t know why Busta Rhymes didn’t call the old-timer to appear with him live [on the Genesis tour],” he said with some surprise earlier in the day. “I would’ve loved to have done it for him live. He wrote that material and told me ‘I want you to perform it in your voice. The delivery you have, I want you to do this for me.’ ”
Rudy Ray said all his rapping friends treat him like royalty whenever they get together. “Busta Rhymes, I have to give him credit for one thing,” Moore said. “He always lays the red carpet out for me when I’m in New York. He brings one of his high-powered rapping friends to be my guest, like O.D.B., and then he brought Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs to meet me the last time when we did the Genesis album. I met Sean before and I guess [Busta] thought it would be nice for me to meet him again because he’s a pretty fabulous man, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs.”
Moore said he’s also good friends with Snoop Dogg, who summoned him to appear on No Limit Topp Dogg (the Doggfather refers to him as Uncle Rudy). But the long-legged MC better stay in his lane — Moore said he can take him on the mic. “He ain’t no better than me because I am the Godfather of Rap,” he boasted with a smile. “When it comes to rappin’, I was through with it before they knew what to do with it.”
There’s one important person, though, who has never heard his ultra-raw material — his 92-year-old mother. He does credit her with introducing him to the mic, however.
“Let me go back, waaayyy back!” he said about the origins of his rhyme-slinging. “I have to thank my mother for this. When I was a little boy she used to teach me poems. I would go in church and tell the poems in church for the Easter program, and again for Mother’s Day and any occasion she felt would fit. I was very energetic with delivery at that time as a boy, so it stuck with me.”
The inspirational words of the church have also been seared in his memory. Despite the success he’s had from cursing up a storm, he still has church for a little non-secular rap, such as on the song “We’re Only Here for a Little While.”
“I’m gonna hold who needs holding,” he recited. “Mend what needs mending/ Talk what needs talking/ And walk what needs walking/ Preach what needs preaching/ And say what needs saying, ’cause we’re only here for a little while.”
Moore dropped his first comedy album, Eat Out More Often, in 1970. His star turn came five years later with the independent action comedy “Dolemite,” which he starred in and financed with the money he earned performing at clubs.
Shocking Hollywood, like many of the films during the infamous but groundbreaking Blaxploitation era, “Dolemite” went on to become a hit. A sequel, “The Human Tornado,” was spawned the following year, and his cult following was cemented in 1978 with the release of “Petey Wheatstraw.” In that film, Moore stars as the butt-kicking, karate-chopping Petey, who makes a deal with Satan to marry his daughter after the devil resurrects him.