Claim to Fame: I DJ’d poorly for a while in high school and college. I never really got good at it. I was alright and I had good records, but it never really materialized for me. I did a radio show too and that’s actually where Cocaine Blunts and Hip Hop Tapes started. The fifth anniversary of the blog just passed, so I’ve been doing my blog for most of my adult life.
I’m not much of a multi-media beast; I just try to do my blogs. I did the column at XXL for a while, I’ve done a lot of freelancing for various magazines like Vibe, and I write some reviews for NPR.
Representing: I grew up in New Jersey. I live in DC now.
Years in the Game: I’ve been buying records for 13 or 14 years. I started when I was 12 or 13. Back then I wasn’t deep into it; I was going to flea markets with my parents and buying James Brown 45’s. I really got into digging when I came to DC to go to school. DC circa 2001 was just incredible for buying records. I was bringing 50 to 100 records home from flea markets on a regular basis, and they were really good records. I was kind of blessed to come down here during a time like that.
I was DJing off and on between ’01 and ’05. I never really did it heavily; it was mostly my radio show or the occasional house party for a friend. I never felt called to DJ. My crates are too specific. I don’t know if people really want to put up with the music I want to play.
Best Digging City or Town: DC is the only city I’ve ever lived in. I grew up in Jersey and I would go into New York, Philly, and Trenton, but you need to live in a city to really know the records. In my experience, DC is the best, but if I had been hitting Philly as hard as I hit DC, I might have done better. I don’t know.
There was one flea market in particular that me and a half dozen other dudes would hit up twice a week. It wasn’t like there were too few records to go around, we’d all get there and then go home happy. Nobody really sells records there anymore. We’d go on Thursdays and Saturdays. Thursdays I had a morning class, so I’d have to lug a crate of records with me to my class. I’d just sit there and put my feat up on them. Everything now is pretty much done in DC as far as casually buying records. If you’re not doing house calls, you’re not finding records.
There are a couple of dealers who have tapped out all the flea markets. I’ll go to a flea market now and see crates of records in one of the dealer’s trucks. When I ask about taking a look at them they’ll say, “Nah, I’m saving these for so and so.” I don’t understand that at all. I’ll buy some records too. I buy a lot of bullshit rap and weird records which most people wouldn’t want to look at anyway.
I’m not going to complain about Ebay because I’ve made a lot of money and gotten a lot of great records off of Ebay. At the same time, it’s made it so that dealers are less a source of information and merely a source of records. They don’t have to have any knowledge of what they’re selling. That’s a big problem. It makes it hard for people who are just trying to casually buy records that they know about and care about. Whatever…it was fun while it lasted.
Most Prized Piece of Wax: Probably the very first indy Scarface 12”, which I put up on my blog a little while ago. It’s a self titled 12” and it came out before he signed to Rap-A-Lot. I actually got that one off of Ebay, so there isn’t an exciting story behind it.
I have this one joint that I love; it’s my favorite record that I’ve found in the last few years. It’s a 45 by a fool from New Orleans called MC J’ Ro J’. The cover is a goofy picture sleeve 45” and it’s basically proto bounce backed by brass band samples. It’s a ridiculous record. The guys talking about “leading raps second lines through the French quarter.” Other than those two, I don’t really know.
I don’t usually think of records that way, I don’t really single them out. At the end of the day, my most prized records aren’t unknown grails or $500 joints; they’re stuff like Curtis Mayfield Live. To me that is a prized record that I couldn’t part with.
Favorite Album Cover/s: I’m still pretty geeked off of Pen and Pixel. Most of that stuff didn’t come out on vinyl, so I don’t know if it even counts. I’ve seen Pen and Pixel covers that are pineapples surrounded by gold and money stacks.
Or two dudes riding a bra strap through the clouds.
To me, the creativity of that design company is one of the greatest things in the history of the world. They did thousands and thousands of covers, so you’re always finding bizarre new shit like a dude riding a Cadillac past Pluto. These are actual covers. I’m not making this up.
People on the internet are always siked off of Big Bear. Big Bear only scratches the surface of the Pen and Pixel madness.
There’s one site I linked to on my blog and it was something like 40 pages of Pen and Pixel, and that didn’t even scratch the surface. They put out so many covers during their four year reign. I think there was some kind of falling out with them; I’m not really sure what happened. They kind of disappeared around 2000-2001, which is a shame. Pen and Pixel truly was the greatest design company in the history of hip hop.
I can’t really follow that up with anything. Other than Pen and Pixel, I don’t know. There are lots of classic album covers. I was just looking at Terry Callier’s What Color Is Love cover with the naked chick smoking a cigarette.
That’s a fantastic cover, but you can’t really put that next to dudes riding a bra strap. At the end of the day, if your choices come down to a really sublime photo verses Photoshop madness, you know where you’re going to go.
Dollar Bin Miracle: I found Keefy Keef, Keith Murray’s first record, sleeveless in a thrift shop for fifty cents. It wasn’t even in a crate of rap music; it was amongst the usual random assortment of thrift store records.
I rarely pay a lot for the big money rare rap records I find. I usually find them for a dollar. I found two Paul C produced records by Sport G and Mastermind for ten cents each, which was pretty cool.
It all starts to blur together after a while. I’m not paying more than five dollars for most of the records I buy. Unless it’s something I really want on Ebay. Most record stores are going to pass on the stuff I’m looking for and just put it in their dollar bin.
Total Records Owned: I’m probably down to 2500 now. About half of that is stuff that I hope to get rid of at some point. My main goal is to be able to fit my collection into one IKEA unit. Then again, I’m always buying stuff. I’ve cut down my collection over the past few years, but not as much as I’d like to. I don’t want to be one of these dudes with 20,000 records. I’m not keeping albums with one good song on them. To met, that’s a waste of space and money. I’ll put the one song I like on my computer and sell the record if the rest of it sucks.
Best Digging Story: I don’t have many crazy stories about major come ups. I’m not out there doing the house calls and networking. I’d rather put that effort into writing. I figure that I can be networking with record dealers and old ladies or I can be networking with artists. I tend to choose artists. With records, I’m pretty much only doing flea market, thrift store, and record store type shit.
I do have one really weird story from a house call that’s worth sharing. This ones tough…I don’t want to give away too much about this particular dealer because he’s a really nice guy. Anyway, I went to this one dealer’s house and we ate fried plantains after I looked through his records. When we were done he was like, “I just got a hot tub. You should call all of your buddies. We can have a little party.” Keep in mind this guy is something like 60 years old. I was just like, “Um…no. I’m just going to back out slowly and take my records.” It’s kind of embarrassing now that I think about it, but yeah, that’s my story (Laughs).
It was strange. I still see the guy around sometimes. The last time I saw him he was talking about how Michael Jackson should go to Thailand if he wants to be a pedophile. He was like, “You can’t do that man, unless you’re in Thailand.” I just told him, “No, you can’t do that anywhere; I don’t care where you go.”
I don’t want to throw him under the bus; I’ve gotten great records from that man. He’s just a little bit eccentric.
To read some of Noz's essential insight into the wild world of forgotten and under appreciated music, click here. His CBRAP blog is without question one of the best music based sites on the web.