Is Crate and Record Digging Dead?

November 21, 2006

This crazy thought crossed my mind a while back as I was downloading a fairly difficult to find album entitled Afreaka by a little known group named Demon Fuzz.  It occurred to me that we are quite possibly on the cusp of a revolution within Hip Hop music and culture.  There is an almost absurd amount change occurring in the art form, especially with regards to the code of ethics and respect involved in music and production.  Hip Hop music has always been anchored by DJ’s and producers who out of a sense of pride and respect, were driven by a compelling need to create dope music and dig in the crates for records.  For many, it is considered intense work to leave their house early on a weekend morning and spend a majority of the day searching, getting dirty, and haggling for old music.  For others like myself there is nothing that can even come close to the feeling of joy, excitement, and sense of adventure attained during a crate digging excursion.  I personally enjoy the act (art?) of record digging and hunting, especially since I finally know just what the hell I’m doing.  However, for someone who only cares about the music and not necessarily the medium, does it really make sense to look for vinyl?  This is a serious question, especially when you consider all of the time, money and utter nonsense involved in attaining desirable vinyl.  Is it really worth it?  To hardcore beat head the answer is obvious and almost sacrilege, but for someone a little more new school there is much more to consider.   I’d like to propose an idea…  Record collecting is alive and well, while record and crate digging is a dead or dying activity.

I’m one of the cats who after a long stressful day become instantly relaxed and at ease as soon as I run into a new stash of records.  My shoulders instantly relax and suddenly I’m in my own element.  My fingers begin to dance through the perfectly aged covers while a familiar feeling of anticipatory excitement overwhelms my stomach and my mind simultaneously slips into the perfect state of awareness.  I’ve often heard athletes refer to this state as being in the zone.  Of course I love the feeling that I get from record digging, who wouldn’t?  What I hate are some of the inconveniences and disturbing interactions of the whole process.  Some of those inconveniences are getting up crazy early on a Sunday morning to be the first a the flea market, burning high priced gas to travel to distant places, and the lack of manners and personal hygiene of many record dealers.  If it wasn’t obvious already, I have a general dislike of vintage record dealers and actively try to avoid anyone who chooses to make a living this way.  Many of those that I’ve run into have a habit of coming across as opportunistic, manipulative, and somewhat greedy with a tendency to make fairly ignorant statements whenever the conversation veers away from artist discographies.  The best example of this being the dealer at a record show in Billerica, MA who after trying to sell me a damaged Leadbelly record, expressed his deepest concern for the loss of quality records and music in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  Needless to say I wanted to slap this guy with the crusty Styx cassette tape that was for sale at his table.

I used to be one of those hardcore heads that would only buy vinyl and look down upon anyone who did not DJ, make beat, and sleep with their collections.  I’ve grown up a bit since then and fortunately it’s much easier for a person who is fairly new to Hip Hop and Rap production to be a music lover, especially when you have no concern about being a collector.  Not everything is available on CD or MP3, but much of the hot stuff is.  What makes the hunt for music even better is that if you are internet savvy, you don’t even have to pay to search for hot Hip Hop drum loops, samples or breaks.  I’m not promoting piracy, but with the advent of tools such as Serato and Final Scratch, outside of collecting, buying records doesn’t really even make sense.  Personally, whatever I buy on wax tends to be for my personal collection simply because I love records, have concern over the grading, and like the way they look on my wall.  I probably wouldn’t even bother with vinyl were I not a collector because it’s so delicate, cumbersome, expensive and hard to find.   Most heads that are into production nowadays really don’t care if a record is rare or if they are staying true to the roots of Hip Hop music; their only concern is if it sounds hot. 

Of course this little idea of mine could just be a ploy to deter you from digging and to keep the dopest vinyl for my cohorts and myself, but then again maybe not.  So this brings us again back to the question… Is crate and record digging dead?

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