Fat Beats Forever: Mass Appeal Salutes a Hip-Hop Institution
We pay our respects to one of the illest record shops ever.
Two years ago the doors of Fat Beats NY and Fat Beats LA closed forever. The brick and mortar shops were staples of the underground and indie rap scene and a haven for hip-hop junkies hungry for the “real shit” that didn’t get much radio play or mention in the mainstream. Not simply a store, Fat Beats was a meeting place for DJ’s, emcees, producers and fans.
Now, an array of artists is rising from the ashes of the shuttered shops. From Stones Throw signee Homeboy Sandman to the west coast wunderkind Casey Veggies (who performed at the LA store’s closing) it’s clear that Fat Beats is still influencing today’s rap scene.
The graduating class of Fat Beats employees who doubled as artists includes guys like the legendary DJ Eclipse (La Coka Nostra/Non Phixion), Ill Bill and Breezly Brewin of Juggaknots and now the Brown Bag All-Stars are adding their name to that legacy. The group recently released the video for “406,” a song that pays homage to Fat Beats NY which was located at 406 Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village.
Check out the “406” video below and our reprinted article about Fat Beats from 2004—the store’s commemorating 10-year anniversary.
10 RAP COMMANDMENTS
FAT BEATS CELEBRATES A DECADE OF BEATS, RHYMES, AND DEBIT CARDS
as told to: Owen Strock photos: Sarah Smith
If you named your hamster after one of the Wu-Tang members, believe 1988 was the greatest year of the last century, and have your vinyl organized alphabetically, categorically and regionally, then you might be a real hip hop head. You also might want to seek therapy. Luckily, there is a place for your kind- a spot around the corner form 8th Street where everybody knows your name (or attest your DJ name). A place called Fat Beats, where b-boys, rappers, producers and Japanese kids with fat credit lines can get their hip hop on.
Started by Joseph Abaijan (aka DJ Jab) in July of 1994, Fat Beats began as a humble record spot in the East Village basement. Now ten years in the mix, Fat Beats has three stores in NYC, LA, and Amsterdam, a distribution company, a record label,a recording studio, and a brand new clothing line. It has also spawned a cottage industry of broke rappers (call them hip hop hobos if you will) who try to sell wide-eyed white boys from Connecticut their CD-Rs as they enter the store (we love ya Percee-P– keep grindin’!). Mass Appeal would like to salute this crossroads of underground pimps, players and Poindexters by looking back at Fat Beats’ bestselling records each year from 1994 to 2004, with a little help from some of the players involved.
THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
Juicy/ Unbelievable (Bad Boy)
“Back in ’94, DJs always made sure to stop at Fat Beats when they were in the Village shopping with their girls. When I first played ‘Unbelievable’, all the Djs would be like, ‘What! DJ Premier and Biggie!?’ And then I would flip it to the A-side — ’cause you know we always play the B-side first– and if the Dj’s girl was with him, she would hear ‘Juicy’. After that, he had no choice but to buy it. Biggie had both the DJs and the girlfriends nodding their heads.” – DJ Jab [Fat Beats Owner]
The World is Yours (Columbia)
“I remember doing ‘The World is Yours’ in my basement. I think I was 19 or 20- something like that- and I met Nas in Queens with Extra P. Nas was the illest new cat in Queens, and as his career progressed, he became the illest writer, the illest voice and so forth. He came over to the crib and I was playing a couple of disks from my drum machine when I came across this little jazzy jewel. As soon as I played it, Nas’s reaction was like a jolt of lightening. He started to sing the hook, ‘Whose world is this?’ and then everything else else just fell into place. That’s my favorite Pete Rock-produced Nas record. I love Nas. I hope we can do something again soon. Holla, nigga!” – Pete Rock [Producer, “The World Is Yours”]
(Fat Beats/ Serchlite Records)
“This was a great time for independents. At this particular moment there were only a hand full of groups that were putting out music on their own. We partnered up with Fat Beats and released out first 12. I remember the group bugging out the first time I played it on the KCR. Me and Serch [3rd Bass Mc and owner of Serchlite Records] went down to Atlanta that year for the Gavin convention to start putting DJs up on the record. It was also the first record that featured Necro’s production on it. Here we are, 10 years later running our own labels and still working with Fat Beats.” – DJ Eclipse
Eight Steps To Perfection/ Vital Nerve
“This was Co Flow’s second 12, but the first off of our EP Funcrusher [Official, ’95]. Not long after the 12 dropped, Hot97 and DJ Premiere started playing it during the day. This went on for two weeks, and me, Juss and Len all knew we were about to blow the fuck up on some radio shit. But why weren’t they announcing our name over the air? We relized that we forgot to write the name of our group on the record. No one knew how to request it. We were not pleased with ourselves.” -El-P
Internationally Known/ The Enemy
“My memory of the recording of ‘The Enemy’ with Big L and Fat Joe is a funny one. We were in the studio, and Showbiz was having an argument with Big L about Malclom X and Martin Luther King. No matter how much Show told L, ‘Shut up!! You don’t know what your talking’ about,’ he continued to ignore Show’s request to be quiet. Meanwhile, I’m sitting’ at the drum machine making the track from scratch as I always do. and Fat Joe just walks in to write. Big L didn’t want to hear anything about his analogy about these two great men being wrong. Believe me, Showbiz knows his facts about these two, so I wasn’t taking any sides on the matter, I just listened and laughed the whole time ’cause L was like, ‘Yo Preem – listen to my facts and let me explain it to you!’ Showbiz was just like ‘Yo L-Shut the fuck up!’
“In a matter of about an hour, the track was laid and L started to write. At this point, I think O.C. was in the room too. The vocals got cut in a matter of minutes. I remember Joe did his whole verse in two takes, nut he got stuck on this one line near the end of the verse [I’m latin’ back, plain the role/ Playin’ that low/ But it’s the same old Joe, so don’t get KO’d]. He did that one line for about 20 takes before he got it right, and Big L finally got him through the line! Another masterpiece well done.”- [Producer, “The Enemy”]
Ebonics (Criminal Slang)/Size ’em Up
“I remember at this time, Showbiz was running shit as far as the D.I.T.C. releases were concerned. He wanted to put L out through that label, but at the same time he was mad busy working on his own EP [Showbiz & A.G.’s Full Scale EP [D.I.T.C. Records, ’98]] and had L on the back burner. Frustrated with waiting to drop his own single, L called me up and said he was going to put out a 12 with Freeze Records. There was no way I was going to let that happen, so I called Show and got the clearance to put out a joint with L directly, and Flamboyant Entertainment was born.”
“L didn’t even want to record this song [‘Ebonics’] because he thought it was ‘too concept’ and wanted to go more street (like the B-Side ‘Size ’em Up’). But after a lot of bad noise, I was finally able to convince him that a record like this would stand out from all the other generic raps, and time has proved that to be true.” – Rich King [Project Coordinator]
BUMPY KNUCKLES (AKA FREDDIE FOXXX)
A Part of My Life/ Devious Minds (KJAC Music)
“I remember Gangstarr was doing a show at Tramps in ’99, ‘A Part of My Life’ was just bubbling in the underground, and Bumpy was rolling with the Gangstarr Foundation. He came out in the middle of their set, during ‘Militia’, with a black stocking mask covering his whole head. He did his verse in ‘Militia’ and then went into ‘A Part of My Life’. Tramps just erupted, and at this point Bumpy Knuckles commenced to take over the underground.” – DJ Jab
D&D Soundclash/ Mic Stance (White Label)
“D&D Soundclah’ was realized as a white label in order to keep the Afu presence stung in the hip hop market while completing Body of the Life Force [Kotch Records, ’00]. This song had a certain magic to it, starting with the beat produced by Evil Dee of the Beatminerz. After I got the track, all I needed were the right words, and the Cocoa Brovaz and Jordan, along with myself, couldn’t do any wrong. The music basically told us what to say.” – Afu-Ra
Hot/Get Yourself Up (Kotch Records)
“When I did the tracy for KRS, Jazzy Jeff of the Funky 4 submitted it to him for me, and Kris was digging it so much, He amped up crazy in the spot like, ‘Now this is hip hop!’ Meanwhile, I never knew he was actually dissing Jay-Z on the song until Vakill from the Molemen pointed it out. Then I was like, ‘I hope this nigga don’t think I’m dissing his ass ’cause I did the track.’ Then I said, ‘Fuck it- if he do, so what? The shit is hot to death!” – Grand Daddy I.U. [Co-producer, “Hot”]
TRUTH HURTS FEAT. RAKIM
“I remember Jimmy Iovine [Chairman of Interscope Records] saying that the song was strange and would never sell a record. I also remember the laughs exchanged at the belly dancing classes prior to the making of the video. I was thinning I would never be able to make a video with belly dancing word if I was the person in the front. I guess it all worked out though!”- Truth Hurts
The Official/The Red (Stones Throw)
“When Madlib first gave us his Jaylib demos, we all felt that ‘The Red’ had the most commercial sensibility. It was a no-brainer for the first single. But I think that both we, and Fat Beats, were a bit surprised at how much it sold, and how quickly. By the time we were placing the initial order for the record, the special promo version which we had custom-manufactured was already selling for a nice-bit on eBay. But we only ran around 3000 units of the record. Needless to say, those sold out damn fast and we had to scramble to reorder. We certainly learned our lesson, and pressed a much heavier run with ‘All Caps’.” – Egon [Stones Throw Label Manager & Artist]
Curls/All Caps (Stones Throw)
“I didn’t even expect Doom to pick [ the “All Caps”] beat. I was recording music off of television to sample, just looping them up. I made that beat, but it was one of my least favorite beats-ever. It was filler, just something to put on my “100 beats” beat CD’s. But when I heard his lyrics, it made me like the beat. He flipped it.”- Madlib