It’s Record Store Day. Go Back & Tour Hip-Hop’s Most Famous Vinyl Destination (Video)
Hip Hop music started in the early 1970s, when DJs used at least two turntables and their vinyl records to prolong the sections of songs that dancers and party-goers most responded to. By the end of the decade, rappers and DJs were making their own Hip-Hop records, including hits by Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, and Kurtis Blow. Hip-Hop and the 12″ vinyl record have a close history, as some could argue that Rap music helped vinyl alive in the era of the cassette tape, CD, and beyond.
Today (April 22) is 2017’s Record Store Day. For those not out breaking bread on the increasingly popular retail holiday, now is fitting time to do something you can’t do anymore: tour Hip-Hop’s most famous record store. In 2007, DJ Eclipse (Non-Phixion / La Coka Nostra / “The Rap Is Outta Control” show) uploaded this video of the old Fat Beats location in Lower Manhattan.
Dilated Peoples’ “Rework The Angles,” Biggie’s “Unbelievable,” Gang Starr’s “Above The Clouds,” and other thematic instrumentals play, as Eclipse takes Heads through the hallowed halls. Tracks like these are what were heard when customers were thumbing through crates. In those experiences, Rap fans with some dollars and time to spend could have very well been in some important company. Over the years between 1994 and 2010, Eminem was there, helping making “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” a calling-card single for the Slim Shady era.
Like ‘Em, Kanye West, Common, El-P, and Hieroglyphics performed there to build awareness. Gang Starr was a fixture there, as were members of D.I.T.C., Black Star, Wu-Tang Clan, and A Tribe Called Quest. As Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg told The Village Voice upon Fat Beats’ 2010 closing, “For a totally independent artist, one without any distribution deal, getting your record in Fat Beats was the only way back then.” Meanwhile, Eclipse calls his upstairs haven “the last stop” in this nostalgic, 10-year old video, as he showed De La Soul releases that many Heads were unaware of, and points to merch’ that wasn’t carried by Tower or Sam Goody:
Over time, the Fat Beats brand would expand, with a Los Angeles location opening during the vinyl Hip-Hop boom. Amsterdam and Tokyo followed, as one iconic early Slum Village photo reminds. More than just a place to cop wax, Fat Beats provided a cultural Damascus for those connected to Hip-Hop. Heads wanting to listen could interface with artists hoping to be heard. Even outside the store, eventual Stones Throw artist and Madlib collaborator Percee P would become a fixture, as names like Sav Killz and Creature were attached to Hip-Hop sidewalk selling for ages.
Eclipse managed the store, while such great MCs clerked over the years as Ill Bill, The Juggaknots’ Breezy Brewin, and Arsonists’ Q-Unique. In the 2000s, the Brown Bag AllStars collective was a group that formed as a result of their Fat Beats ties.
While its Manhattan and Los Angeles stores are no longer there, Fat Beats is quite alive and well online. Moreover, their label and distribution has been pumping out new heat by Alchemist, Bad Neighbor (Madlib + Blu + MED), and Roc Marciano, among others. As Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito (who helped Fat Beats immensely in the ’90s) return with a talk podcast, Heads can still support this Hip-Hop institution that truly supported the culture.
#BonusBeat: How DJ Premier took Fat Beats out with the fader in 2010:
The song playing is Gang Starr’s “Full Clip.”