‘…Bumrush the door of the store, pick up the album…’
I’ve mixed emotions about the ease that this, and future, generations have when it comes to accessing music. I love that you can hear/purchase/stream your new favourite artists within seconds on your smartphone. I feel uncomfortable how easy it is to illegally acquire your new favourite artists hard work. I love that artists have a far, far wider platform to share their creations with a far, far wider audience. I feel dizzy with the sheer size, saturation and velocity of artists that are available to discover.
This is in no way a ‘back in the good old days’ article, but I would love to share the joy and the exclusivity of being a Hip Hop fan in the 80’s and 90’s. Especially outside of the US (I’m in the UK, yo).
We can all appreciate that Hip Hop is literally everywhere – TV, Radio, Magazines, Advertising, Fashion – But not long ago, it had to be hunted down. In the UK, when I was 13, 14, 15 years old, we had 2 hours of Hip Hop on the radio (Weds night, Max and Dave on Kiss FM, and Tim Westwood on Capital), 1 hour on TV (Yo! MTV Raps at midnight on Fridays), and two magazines (Hip Hop Connection, and an imported copy of The Source). To experience Hip Hop outside of theses mediums was unheard of. Plus, back then, most artists (and at the time, it felt like there were only about ten of them) were independent and literally grafting from the cities they represented – None of the major scale label funding and promotion of our artists today.
The ease of access currently, and moving into the future, is counter productive – We can purchase and support the lively-hood of our heroes, or we can thoughtlessly (or purposefully) torrent and literally keep the food of their tables. Heres a story, a general idea of the journey the young SVNTY6 took to acquire the latest LP/12”…
After a ‘hard’ week at college, I’d stay up until midnight on a Friday evening and watch Yo! MTV Raps to hear/see the latest joints – I also used to record it to VHS, then catalogue each song in chronological order and rate out of 10 (don’t judge me…). I’d wake up on Saturday, and call around the record shops in London (An hour’s train journey away) and they would play the newest vinyl to me, down the phone. Any that I wanted, would be reserved for me.
Depending on how much part-time job working money I’d earned, I’d then have to travel into London, walk around SoHo and the back streets behind Oxford Circus to Unity, Uptown, Mr. Bongo, Reckless Records, and more to buy my vinyl. (I can still remember exactly where I bought my ‘Juicy’, ‘Come Clean’, ‘Rampage’, ‘Crooklyn Dodgers’ 12’s… And many others).
Then, back to the train for my journey home, with my imported Snapple Ice Tea.
Even then, on my return home, I’d still have to record them ‘real time’ onto tape so I could carry them around with me – I also used to speed my Technics 1200 up so I could fit more than 11 tracks on one side of a tape. I could fit 12, thus I had a massive 24 tracks on one tape, and I carried about 10 tapes around with me…
Essentially, what would take me less than 2 minutes today, would be a 3 day process in my teenage years.
As I said above, I miss that romance. And there have been/will be generations who will not experience this. And I firmly believe that it’s precisely these experiences that make ‘older heads’ so attached to and fond of the past. We aren’t the millennial generation. And neither is right or wrong, as it is a different time.
Regardless of the artists you like, we are blessed with such a diverse and eclectic genre. Super creative, talented and varied – From Aesop Rock to Drake, B. Dolan to Future, Madlib to Ab Soul – to take and not give is to be destructive. The independent artists literally give up everything to make their dream a reality, and often deliver far, far superior albums than those on a major label.
There is a great meme doing the rounds, which says –
‘People pay $150 to watch someone lip-sync a song they didn’t write from a quarter of a mile away, and nobody bats an eyelid, but ask somebody to pay $10 to watch local musicians play real instruments and everybody loses their minds…’
Personal disclosure, I do get my music from specific websites, but I make sure to purchase the vinyl copy from the label. Firstly because I want the music on my iPhone, but secondly, and importantly, I want the label and the artists to be recognised and recompensed for the entertainment and inspiration they provide. (Check my Instagram to see the boy MaxBillions ‘modelling’ said records…).
Also, don’t ignore the fact that the artists make a great living from merchandise and touring, so buy that shirt and get to that show, yo!
Listen, get your music how you get your music – I’m not preaching or judging – but think how hard your artist has worked, how many hours/days/months they have put in, and decide if you should gain the product for free. Then think about how long it takes for you to become the holder of the dopeness – 3 days, or 3 minutes? Either way, we’re all part of this culture.