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.
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