R.I.P. Fatbeats (J.I.L.S.)
As you’ve probably noticed, there was only one update to our site last week. That’s because I’ve honestly been dreading having to write the following post. Continuing our series of Journeys in Liquidation Sales, it’s my sad duty to cover the closing of a very specific beloved hangout and record store known as Fatbeats. I have a lot of emotional investment in this place, so please pardon any diverting from our standard Popular Path.
On September 4th, 2010, the world famous record store FatBeats will close its door for the last time and Hip-Hop will have lost another Mecca. Granted, Hip-Hop is a youth culture whose consistant vibrancy has always come from new kids always doing something completely different from those who came before them, but FatBeats held the distinction of being one of the few locations that would acknowledge the past by looking to the future through the spectrum of a genuine love for the culture. With the ceiling covered with authentic first-run promotional posters of classic albums, the walls lined with classic and current vinyl releases and a special section devoted to autographed promo 8 X 10 of rap’s most celebrated icons and beloved unsung heroes, it was something of a living museum of rap music. The closest thing we have ever had to a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, it became everything from a tourist destination to a regular hangout for just about everyone that passed through its doors.
Many are citing its closing as a “sign of the times” and playing all sorts of blame games from the most prevalent “nobody’s supporting record stores” sentiment, to the bitter few complaining FatBeats “didn’t support independent artists.” The latter is a complete and utter fabrication as FatBeats carried plenty of local/underground Hip-Hop, but I’ll get into that in a bit. Most importantly, I want to address the former, and if you take nothing else from the rest of this article or don’t want to hear someone lament the loss of a place that meant a lot to them, please take the next paragraph as the definition of what FatBeats meant.
I moved to New York in August, 2004 where I lived in Washington Square Park. A Sam Goody has just closed, but there were 19 other music stores within a ten minute walk of where I lived including a Tower Records, a Virgin Megastore, a FYE and countless Mom-and-Pops. Six years later, FatBeats has outlived ALL but ONE. Now, think of these large record stores with billion-dollar conglomerates behind them who couldn’t stay afloat in the highest-priced rent area of the most expensive city in the country and realize that this comparatively hole-in-the-wall store that ignored what was popular to ONLY CARRY MUSIC THEY LIKED outlived ALL OF THEM by AT LEAST A YEAR. If that isn’t a sign of unbelievable support from a community, I don’t know what is. They followed an insane business model, which was to follow their hearts, and not only did it work, but it made them the last man standing. As sad as it is that all things must come to an end, the Last Stop for Hip-Hop is going out with the honor and respect that it deserves.
Now, if I may switch things up a bit, I’m going to spend the rest of this post sharing some of my favorite FatBeats memories, in chronological order.
– As I mentioned earlier, I first moved to New York in August, 2004. I moved here for school* and had my first day at NYU on September 7th. That evening, immediately after class, I set foot into FatBeats for the first time for a Rob Sonic instore. It was the release of his album Telicatessen at the height of my 18-year-old indie-rap fandom. Seeing how many artists I had spent so many years listening to back in Minnesota just casually walking through the front door and sharing the same breathing room blew my mind. Not only did I get to meet many of my heroes, I got to know many of the local rap enthusiasts and other NYU students that, to this day, became some of my closest friends. This is also where I met NYC favorite Creature who considered Fatbeats’ storefront his “office” as he educated me on everything there is to know about the scene.
– Soon Fatbeats became the both my hangout as well as the place I would show whenever I would walk near it with anyone. I remember pointing it out during a first date with a girl on Valentine’s Day that year at a pizza place within eyeshot of it, describing it as “a hangout.” She said “It’s a record store, what do you do there?” “You know…rap things.” Those rap things would include two months later when I got to freestyle over an original Evil Dee beat at a Beatminerz instore. There’s somethings you don’t expect to do as an 18-year-old from Minnesota, and that one was pretty high on the list but FatBeats made it a reality.
– Unlike other record stores, Fatbeats didn’t really have a stage or artist area so in-store performances took place right in the middle of the store, allowing for a real one-on-one interaction with artists you really couldn’t get anywhere else. Over the years I got to watch ToneDef autograph my copy of his album by un-ironically filling up the entire cover art with his five-step plan/instructions for how Hip-Hop is to be evaluated and elevated over the next decade, hear first-hand about X-Clan’s Brother J’s admiration of the Kottonmouth Kings, see Brother Ali’s face light-up with the news his album was debuting on the Billboard 200 at #69, enjoy stories from Evil Dee about what a bitch it was to clear samples from overseas artists, pass along a message to Sean Price from the security guard at my dorm that referenced very specific people from the Brownsville project he grew up in, Pack FM demand that I leave the store for referring to a shot he took at Ja Rule’s ‘Blood in My Eye’ album as “disrespecting the g.o.a.t.,” witness C-Rayz Walz give an entire radio interview over the phone with his answers in the form of freestyle rhymes, have one-time Fatbeats staple Percee-P give me his phone number “in the event I ever become a blogger or music journalist and want to do an interview,” out-of-towners Zion-I being unintentionally super-early for their instore by getting there on time, and countless others that either are skipping my mind or that I could never print. (ask me sometime)
– But what I’ll most remember FatBeats for was when I had an instore there. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a smattering of belly-aching from a few in the scene who think that because FatBeats never stocked them or their boys that they never supported independent artists. Truthfully, it’s because Fatbeats had pretty high standards and through its 16-year existence, you only really made it in the indieground when Fatbeats carried you. It took me three releases until they finally stocked me, and my instore on April 30th, 2008 I’ll always remember as one of the proudest moments of my life. I came to New York four-years prior with no friends, worked really hard and had finally achieved a lifelong dream. The turnout was the third-biggest of that year (only behind Q-Tip and Immortal Technique) and really felt like a graduation or a validation of what I had done over the past decade.
So thanks FatBeats for being the perfect idealized record store.
We give FatBeats a Five Out of Five
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*and stayed for the pie.