My addiction to records started much earlier than a lot of the collectors and DJs that today claim to be veterans of the hip hop scene, but I'm always happy to let these others do the braggin' & boastin' while I let my records do the talking! My brother from another mother BREAK DJ LEACY first schooled me on breakbeats back in 1990. LEACY would compile his own "IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT BEAT" lists of the dopest drum break LPs, hunt 'em down one by one and then compile a new list Although this gave me a taste for drum beats whaaay back, I was so addicted to buying hip hop records at the time and this passion took priority. But as hip hop music went through its creative ups and downs, I began to search hard instead for original breaks on LP and 45 to keep my addiction to records satisfied. Back home in London the vinyl pickings were getting slim despite a few great record shops like HONEST JON's, SOUL PROVIDER, JIF's and INTOXICA. JIM LEACY (pictured here on the wheels) and myself had discussed a cross-Antlantic journey many times and in 94 we agreed to plan a summer trip to NY in the hope of quenching our hip hop thirsts. The NY trip would give me the opportunity to pick up some classic beats and maybe dig up a few new ones, and with JIM LEACY as my diggin partner I knew I would find some sureshots. Although unfortunately JIM never got to make the trip to NY that year, and I was destined to pace the NY streets in search of dusty beats on my own clutching my rudimentary map of record shops and a third generation photocopy of an old BAMBAATAA breakbeat list.
Digging for records in New York is like a right of passage for hip hoppers. If you've been down with this culture since the early days then you will know back in the 80s and 90s a NY trip was the only way to get a real taste of Hip Hop first hand, right in the city where it was born. I agree by then hip hop music had spread across the US, Far East and Europe with films like WILD STYLE etc. but I'm talking before the Internet, Youtube, Myspace and other websites turned everything hip hop related into a global commodity. I wanted to experience for myself the NY atmosphere (yeah that's me acting the fool at Corona Park in Queens), bump into some of favourite MCs, visit a few legendary spots, hunt down some beats, and attend a ROCK STEADY ANNIVERSARY b-boy jam. As much as London had it's vibrant hip hop scene, I didn't feel complete in hip hop terms until I had been to New York, just like a catholic would feel visiting Rome.
Back in the early 90s when I first visited NYC, I remember my pre-trip preparation included listing all the record shops I could which resided in the New York tri-borough. This was before the Internet made this sort of research as easy as pushing a few buttons, so my list was compiled using various music magazines, my slim knowledge of NY, and from friends who had previously made the the pilgrimage to the birthplace of hip hop. If I was going to travel 3000 miles in search of beats I wanted to get my bearings straight and make sure I got to hit the right spots. Back then, the list included stores like ROCK n SOUL records, BLEECKER BOB's, HOUSE OF OLDIES, DOWNSTAIRS RECORDS, DOWNTOWN RECORDS, BEAT STREET etc etc. Although FAT BEATS had taken their spot in a basement on 9th street (their original shop) this was before other specialist hip hop spots like A1 RECORDS and THE SOUND LIBRARY had opened doors and were selling hip hop records and catering for beatheads by stocking soul, funk, r&b, and breaks & beats. My search for the perfect beat was reliant on me doing my homework first.
As much as I found some gems on my New York trips in the 90s, my record knowledge is a whole lot tighter now, and I guess with the specialist shops in NY now catering for the beatheads post millenium, another trip across the pond is surely imminent. I know I could scoop some beats for the crates. Also I'm loving the sound of the Summer Park Jams series organised by FABLE and the regular True School events going off in the city. Plus there's a few record spots I need to hit with the quickness... BIG CITY RECORDS, GOOD RECORDS NYC, ACADEMY plus all the flea markets.
Props to Mac from VINYL VETERANS who makes the trip to NY every year to soak up that old school party vibe, and pick up a few gems while he's there. Next year Mac I'm coming with ya!
FAT BEATS rip