Stories from a Beat maker’s Beatmaker
When I was a kid, all-day record digs were the shit.
Visiting each shop was an adventure. We’d shoot the shit with the owners and feel like we were part of the scene. There’d be 75 year-old pie-eyed stoners who’d come in and recount the days when they went bowling naked with Keith Moon while high on coke. The “Comic Book Guy” record store equivalent would bust our balls for helping ourselves to the wax under the shelf. We’d even get the occasional girl passing through who’d quote verses from AZ’s “Doe or Die” and leave with a limited edition Large Professor single on 7”.
In the Dublab documentary Second Hand Sureshots, Daedelus explains how record stores serve as cultural beacons for cities:
“[On LA]…country music gets a lot thicker when you’re in the heartland. On the coast you find a lot more punk…there’s some things you grow to expect to see and when you don’t you can get the energy and excitement of catching something cool that you wouldn’t normally see…there’s always a lot of question marks.”
It’s those “question marks”, however, that would make record digging fun. Sure the shops would be, for the most part, organized thematically and focus on one or two genres. But we’d get the biggest rush pulling up and dusting off those unique gems - Mandarin soul covers, German disco, elevator music made entirely out of Icelandic whale farts - to name a few.
Sadly, the days of young beatmakers loop digging at the record store are dissipating and evaporating faster than the green haze in a shitty Taiwanese vapor pen.
With the convenience of the internet, finding physical copies of music, especially in record stores, is slowly going by the wayside. Millennials may be music lovers, but they’re also lovers of convenience.
“Wanna make a beat? Let’s take a look at what KNX samples and Google that shit. Dope! I just found Dorothy Ashby’s entire catalogue on Torrents. It’s gonna be a good night tonight, bae!”
All those adventures, all those serendipitous encounters with unique characters, all those shared laughs at bizarre record sleeves, have been supplanted by mouse-clicks and good Wi-Fi at mommy and daddy’s house.
Inasmuch as the music made today by sampling YouTube and MP3’s sounds sonically similar to vinyl, the biggest loss is the adventures and stories amassed on the way to and from shops themselves.
Once upon a time when we’d finish making a beat and show it to our friends, we’d reflect and tell the story of how we came upon the samples. Who was there? What did the room smell like? What country were we in? Did they have more than one copy?
My friend Kwende [AKA DJ Memetic] recently released an album entitled RIDEAU2RICHMOND. The concept for the album was a series of tracks born out of his travels on the Number 2 bus in Ottawa, Ontario. The Number 2 is significant because, while going from one end of town to the other, it would stop in front of many of the most prominent record stores in the city.
In addition, because the bus would pass through different parts of the city, the characters would vary by district. Kwende not only created an album using samples from the records he purchased at the stores in Ottawa, but also employed field recordings captured on the busses themselves. The result was an album that told a story of a culture. A snapshot in time of a city, it’s proclivities for music, and the characters found within.
Stories are important. I hear we’ve been telling them since the dawn of time. Let’s not forgo the future telling of those stories for convenience. Not only are we supporting our local stores and getting to know how they came to be, but we’re allowing them to live on in infamy through our own music and shared adventures.