A Kentucky State University professor wrote the biography of Rudy Ray Moore, whose life is portrayed by Eddie Murphy in Netflix’s “Dolemite Is My Name,” nearly 24 years before the big budget film.
Dr. David Shabazz, associate professor of journalism, and his brother, Julian, wrote the biography and David was recently quoted in USA Today regarding the accuracy of the film portrayal.
“The story is authentic,” Shabazz said of the film’s portrayal of Moore’s life.
Shabazz said he first heard about the film six months ago.
“I was thrilled to see the movie finally come to fruition, but also nervous,” Shabazz said. “I never thought this film would be made. I certainly didn’t expect a big budget film.”
Shabazz said it took a long time for the movie to be made because Dolemite was essentially persona non grata.
“Rudy knew back then that it would take someone of Eddie Murphy’s stature to ‘legitimize’ what he was doing,” Shabazz said. “A lot of people just hear the language, see the album covers and distance themselves from it.”
Shabazz said the film surpassed Moore’s wildest dreams, who passed away in 2008.
“When we spoke in the early 1990s, Rudy wanted Eddie Murphy to put him in one of his films,” Shabazz said. “Eddie made movies like ‘Harlem Nights,’ where he paid homage to comedians Red Foxx and Richard Pryor. That’s what he really wanted.”
Rudy Ray Moore was a household name in the black community, Shabazz said, but he was mostly kept underground.
“To see a mainstream biopic movie about Rudy Ray Moore and the character Dolemite nearly 24 years after our book was published is gratifying,” Shabazz said. “This is much better than Rudy just being a character in one of Eddie Murphy’s movies. God has a better plan than ours if we are patient.”
Shabazz said the biography is a result of his brother, Julian, attending one of Moore’s shows in the early 1990s and asking if he could write a book on Moore.
At the time, Shabazz was a newspaper reporter and grad student finishing his master’s degree on the rap group Public Enemy.
“My research on the origins of rap led me to several popular people like H. ‘Rap’ Brown, Muhammad Ali and African American poets Nikki Giovanni and Haki Madhubuti,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz said he discovered Henry Louis Gates, Donald Bogle, Bruce Jackson, J.L. Dillard and other scholars of class African American literature and folklore.
“They helped me understand the significance of Rudy Ray Moore’s comedy,” Shabazz said.
Moore agreed to the biography and provided source material along the way.
“For almost two years, we mostly talked on the phone,” Shabazz said. “He was always on the road because the bulk of his money came from concerts and live events.”
But, whenever Moore was near enough to hang out, they would.
“He was a complete riot to be around,” Shabazz said. “He wore African attire always. He would still go to Kinko’s and make his own flyers. He loved interacting with people.”
Though books don’t normally come with parental advisory warnings, Shabazz said the biography is for adults only.
“He wanted us to not only tell the Dolemite story but to also document his version of classic folklore tales,” Shabazz said. “He was very pleased. The book was his way of solidifying himself asthe toastmaster of classic black folklore.”
Seeing the movie was surreal, Shabazz said.
“We were fans and eventually became friends,” Shabazz said. “We hung out whenever we could, so this is something special.”