Fat Beats Record Store: The Last Days (by DJ Rob Swift)

September 02, 2010 7 min read

Editors Note: Yesterday Rob Swift sent out an email blast about the his new EP ("Sketches Of The Architect") which included an excellent piece on the unfortunate closing of the Fat Beats retail stores. When I first heard about the stores closing it hit me pretty hard as well. I was just out in New York doing some interviews for the site and Fat Beats opened their doors to me as a HQ for the week. It was great meeting a lot of those people in person for the first time, as well as seeing some of my friends who have been there for a long time (What up Eclipse!). I've been trying to think of the right words to write about the legacy of Fat Beats and it's effect on, not only me, but the Hip Hop world at large...when I read Rob Swift's words I knew he had perfectly captured it, so I hit him to get permission to post those words here. His piece is not only on Fat Beats, but on the dying culture of buying music and supporting neighborhood stores who are closing at an alarming rate!

Also, the Rob Swift EP "Sketches Of The Architect" is available for free download as of today: http://preemtiv.com/emails/robswift/

The EP has Rob revisiting some uncompleted tracks from his album earlier this year, "The Architect". If you haven't peeped that album yet I highly suggested it.

If you are in New York tonight, get down to Fat Beats (406 6th Ave. and 8th St) at 6 PM sharp for a In Store Performance with DJ Rob Swift, Breez Eva Flowin, and The Buck 50 Kutters!

-Kevin Beacham (FEO Media Manager/Editor)

Fat Beats Record Store: The Last Days (By DJ Rob Swift)

My First Love, Vinyl

Displacement, the redirection of an emotion or idea to another, more
acceptable object; a psychological defense mechanism in which there
is an unconscious shift of emotions, affect, or desires from the
original object to a more acceptable or immediate substitute.

On August 17th, I made a little trip to one of my favorite record
stores, Fat Beats (NYC), to pick up some music from the homey DJ
Eclipse (store manager). We chatted about this and that as my eyes
scanned the record shelves, quickly processing what new shit I might
need to be on the look out for. It wasn't long before I noticed my
album, The Architect, wasn't stocked on any of the shelves. It
prompted me to ask E, "Yo, are ya'll still carrying The Arch...?"
That's when E broke the news, "We had it, but unfortunately as of
September of this year, the Fat Beats record store is closing it's
doors. So in order to save money, we're only stocking new
releases..." It felt like somebody just punched me in the chest.
The very next day, FB sent out a press release officially
broadcasting the news to all of those who've supported the store for
the last 16 years.

I think seeing the official press release on my gmail inbox ignited
a fury inside me. It's as if reading what E told me the night
before brought on a sort of finality to the whole situation. Thus,
now that it's official, where do I go from here? Do I sit and do
nothing or do I get proactive about the situation? I think I'll
choose the latter.

Let me explain something to ya'll. FB closing it's stores is
symbolic of the state of Hip Hop consumerism. The first record I
ever bought was "Roxanne Roxanne" by UTFO. I purchased it at my
neighborhood record store, Numbers (78th Street and 37th Avenue). I
remember walking up to the cash register and before I paid the $3.99
price tag, the owner of the store took time to break down why he
thought I made the right purchase. He told me, "...these guys are
from the Full Force camp. You know... the same guys that worked
with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam". He was also like "...you're gonna
love the scratches on this record too."

I remember being 13, 14 years old, telling my parents I was going to
a friends house and taking the #7 train instead into 42nd Street
Times Square to go record shopping at my favorite store, MUSIC
FACTORY. I remember Lenny, who worked the cash register, would put
me on to joint's like "Tom Sawyer" by Rush, "Big Beat" by Billy
Squire, "Toys In The Attic" by Aerosmith and "Bob James One" by Bob
James. Then I'd go to the Hip Hop section and rack up on the stuff
I heard Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Marley Marl, Spectrum City Crew
(now known as Public Enemy), Johnny Juice, Hank Love and Awesome Two
play on there radio shows. I'm talking stuff like "Ego Trippin" by
Ultra Magnetic. "Tougher Than Leather" by Run DMC. The "Criminal
Minded" album by Boogie Down Productions and "Do The James" by
Superlover Cee and Casanova Rudd.

See, buying music back then was an experience that started at home
while you listened to the radio. There would be that one song that
had you feeling like "Yo, I gotta find this record by any means
necessary." Then there was the excursion. You would plan a day in
which you'd set everything aside to go look for this specific
record. Even if it meant train rides from Jackson Heights, Queens
to the Boogie Down Bronx. And once your excursion ended at one of
the many record stores you visited on this day long journey, you
would always have a knowledgeable staff member who would pull you
aside and say "if you're into Run DMC, you might wanna check out
Divine Sounds." You'd leave the store purchasing the one record
you've been on your feet looking for all day plus other joints you
probably weren't up on.

I'd be rushing to get back home just so I could sit down, turn my
dad's equipment on, drop the needle to the record and study the
album jacket, pictures and song credits as the music blasted through
the speakers. I literally became one with the artist. I knew what
studio they recorded in, who produced their tracks, who performed
the scratches... I'd even catalog the addresses of each record label
with hopes that someday I'd get signed after sending them one of
100s of demo tapes I'd work on composed of Psycho Les' (Beatnuts)
beats from his Casio key board, my older brother's, Universe, vocals
and my scratches. Profile, Def Jam, Reality, Sleeping Bag... never
signed us but that only gave me more incentive to go buy this music,
study it and understand how to one day make a HIP HOP song that
people would eventually listen to.

Fast forward to today! Music fans are experiencing music in a
totally different way. Actually, I take that back. Music fans
today don't experience music. They hear it. Yeah, that's a much
better word. They hear it. They hear the same 10 songs being
played on mainstream radio then turn their laptops on and type in
YOUTUBE on their browsers to watch the videos. Then they go to the
club and ask the DJ to play that same song they've been hearing all
day long. "Huh? Go to a record store and buy a record?" "Oh such
and such just dropped an album? I gotta go download it from
LIMEWIRE." Don't get me wrong, ain't nothing wrong with getting
stuff for free every now and then. When I was on the come up as a
DJ we had record pools. Basically, record companies would service
well known club DJs, radio DJs, battle DJs, etc. with free records.
I used to get vinyl in the mail every day from all types of record
companies, but I'd always end up going on that records excursion
anyway to find that joint that nobody was up on. That doesn't seem
to be the case anymore. Music fans today are lazy, PERIOD!

As for Serato's roll in all of this, I have Serato and I still buy
records. I mean, I don't know what else to say. Technology like
Serato, CDJs etc., are not the blame in my opinion. DJs who don't
take the time to dig anymore, DJs who don't make an effort to break
new and innovative music, DJs who only download their music are just
as much responsible for stores like Fat Beats closing as the music
fans I talked about earlier. Look, I've downloaded music. We all
have. Our world continuously evolves and as a result we must adapt
to the technological changes occurring every day. But don't be
surprised if you run into me at Big City Records getting my
fingertips dusty, building with my boy Jared about new sounds I
could use to inspire myself and my audience. I stay searching for
that obscure record I can play on my online radio show Dope On
Plastic (www.scionav.com/radio/channel14). I frequently surround
myself around records, waiting to discover that one joint I can flip
at a live show! The problem is, it seems there's less of me and
more of you make shift DJs that think "all I gotta do is buy Serato,
download a few MP3's and presto, I'm ready to rock a little bar in
the village." That is what's killing stores like Fat Beats.

I get it though, it's much easier to point the finger of blame at an
inanimate object like a laptop that has no feeling, no emotion.
It's always harder to look in the mirror and take responsiblity for
a problem? For those of you who are with me, let's not let what
happened to Fat Beats record store happen to the other remaining
vintage record stores we love! We have to stop displacing the
responsibility of keeping vinyl alive on a power outside of
ourselves. Stop letting the "industry" tell you what's the cool way
to obtain music. Downloading a song from your couch for free will
never compare to searching it out at a record store you can actually
hang out at and meet people that share an interest in similar
music. Live people! Experience things! Avoid being an unthinking
audience. Discover music in your own way and I promise, the world
of music will open up in a way you never imagined.

Any of ya'll ever seen Pink Floyd's "The Wall"? If not, do the


Rob Swift

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