On Fat Beats closing
Wednesday August 18th 2010, 9:54 pm

Fat Beats bag design circa 1999

So the Empire State Building of 90s Rap, Fat Beats Records has closed.

As someone that works in a busy (yes, busy) vinyl record shop every day, I can’t say I’m surprised.
Almost no one has come into buying Hiphop vinyl in more than half a decade. When I started at the shop five years ago we had a lot of people coming in to buy Hiphop. It was far from the best selling genre but there was still a sense of Hiphop and vinyl going together.

Many of those people still come in and buy Hiphop (generally along with other stuff, Soul, Jazz or Jungle) but the problem with Hiphop vinyl is that NEW customers have not materialised to replace the ones that have lost interest. As much as the long term heads bemoaned the influx of “backpackers” or student Rap fans that appeared, out of nowhere, around 1998, they actually took Hiphop vinyl collecting to it’s peak. We had new Rap vinyl shops popping up all over the world to sell the mass of new (often forgettable) “underground” Hiphop 12″s. There was serious competition in getting hold of old classic 12″ singles. Even huge, major label hits were hard to come by on wax, as demand outstripped the earlier supply.

Those people didn’t disappear. I meet them all over the place. They don’t easily boil down to any one stereotype but they sure as hell don’t BUY Hiphop any more, least of all on vinyl. They moved on. For those of us that didn’t, that were buying Rap vinyl before that particular bubble swelled and have carried on after it burst, the Hiphop vinyl landscape can be a sad sight to take in.

Today I reduced an original “Going Way Back / Lyric Licking” twelve inch by Just-Ice to £1.99.

The people that still buy Hiphop in our shop, have, by and large, GOT all the classic records. The big ones. We don’t have anyone that needs a copy of “By All Means Necessary”. We have people, myself and Rap-minded colleagues included, who are just looking for the obscurities or the overlooked. Saddest of all we’re all doing a lot of “minting-up”, replacing much loved copies of KMD 12″s with better-preserved, shinier copies from the collections of less effusive record-lovers who have themselves moved on from vinyl.

Right now we could sell a hell of a lot of original copies of, say, the first Casual album but I can’t sell the first O.C. album. People have already got “Word.. Life” (or got bored of it) but they slept on Casual at the time (or bought the cassette).

We can’t sell anything to be deejayed. No one is spinning strictly Hiphop on vinyl. We sell some Hiphop singles to DJs who play party music across the board but basically Hiphop vinyl is now the preserve of collectors and a lot of great Rap vinyl is currently superfluous.

Jazz, Soul, Rock and other genres are still generating new vinyl customers. Our business in the shop is better than ever but House has fallen almost completely out of favour and Hiphop isn’t so far behind it. It’s a sad time for Hiphop’s relationship with the format it pretty much single handedly saved twenty years ago.

Pour out a little Isopropyl/Distilled-water for Fat Beats, Footwork, Bongos, Deal Real (1), Major Flavas, Beat Street and all the other dead soldiers in the Rap Store game.

Oh and buy more records.

Blogged by Beezer B
Filed under: Hiphop,Vinyl

9 Comments so far
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Sad, and yet it feels like a relief… like seeing a loved one who’s lingered on in dementia finally pass away. Fat Beats was kind of a zombie for a lot of years there. It opened to fill a need for a world of records that other stores weren’t carrying, but then it became: how many Primo-rip-off beats and “I’m real” MC boasts can you stomach…

In a way, Fat Beats assisted in killing my rap passion. Never having made the transition to buying records & CDs over the internet, when the time came that other places in the nation were creating more exciting or interesting styles, it was just so frustrating to go into Fat Beats and not find any of it…

Record stores always seem to die badly, though, don’t they? Seems there’s always a point where they linger on past their prime… You go in and the selection isn’t as popping as it once was, the staff enthusiasm has waned, you don’t find your fix there the same way you used to, you wait a little longer before going back. The cycle repeats, and at some point, well after the love has cooled, the store closes…

Comment by T. Tauri 19.08.10 @ 4:03 pm

Sad but true. At some point in time the stock consists mostly of what couldn’t be sold during the past seven years + the odd recent release. That’s when even the people who would still buy records can’t be bothered to come there anymore and a month later the whole place is turned into a dollar shop…

Comment by Tim 20.08.10 @ 6:50 am

Speaking as someone who was really into Hip-Hop beginning around 1995 and having that interest begin to wane around 2004-5 to the point of near non-existence, I think a major factor in the closure of Fat Beats and the dearth of Hip-Hop customers in your shop is possibly due to the infrequent availability of the sort of Hip-Hop that had gotten some of us excited in the first place.

What sells in Hip-Hop now isn’t generally collected by the niche demographic that was really into it in ’98, for the sort of backpacker Hip-Hop music big in the late Nineties and the early Naughts have morphed into more experimental beats and sounds that seem ill-at-ease as being described as purely Hip-Hop, for better or worse. Or it’s become music that takes itself way too goddamn seriously to be enjoyable. Other strains of rap and Hip-Hop seem to have moved on, but the whole backpacker culture of college radio stations and RMHH fandom pretty much hit a brick wall sometime in the mid-Naughts or so.

The emcees we nodded our heads to a decade ago are guest-starring on television sitcoms now. They may be putting out albums, and they may be putting out good albums, but on the whole–at least for me personally–so many Hip-Hop artists fell off the radar of those niche listeners. My taste in Hip-Hop is frozen for the most part to what I listened to in 1998. If I want to hear it, I play the first Soundbombing album. On my computer. And I reckon I’m not the only one. Somehow, there was a disconnection, from the consumer end or from the artist end. Or both. And unfortunately in the case of Fat Beats, a place I remember making a little pilgrimage to when I went to NYC in 2002, from that disconnection there is loss.

Comment by doreen 20.08.10 @ 10:22 pm

So shops should go out on top. Like Footwork? I’m pretty sure that disappeared in 99 or 00.
Not that it was a major record shop but it was FOCUSED and nice and had KMD grafiti in the back room.

Comment by Beezer B 20.08.10 @ 10:56 pm

I dunno about *should*. S’just that conditions don’t conspire to let them go out on top… (IMHO)

But Footwork did, that’s true…

Comment by T. Tauri 22.08.10 @ 12:14 am

I’ll have that Just-Ice record for £1.99!!! So maybe now the ‘conditions are right’for me to start buying vinyl now?!

Comment by Hurk 01.09.10 @ 10:34 am

It’s not a bad time at all to be buying except that shops can’t justify carrying as much. Especially 12″s. Prices are much better for most things. The rarest stuff is more expensive than ever but a lot of the best music is really cheap.

Comment by beez 13.09.10 @ 4:24 pm

I wonder whatever happened to Depth Charge in Leeds. That’s why I got my mail order fix in the mid 90′s. They had a great selection of tapes and vinyl, and great customer service.

Comment by A to the L 25.12.10 @ 11:03 am

where, not why…

Comment by A to the L 25.12.10 @ 11:04 am

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