In this post, I’m going to share some magical record digging experiences and some nefarious secrets of how and what I do when I dig!
Loud music blaring in my headphones is and will always be my happy place. Growing up, I could always be found wearing headphones. I got my first couple of records at age 13. I had a suitcase turntable with speakers on either side. My mother and father told me about their own record collections when I was very young. When they spoke about their precious records, it was obvious to me how sad they were to see them go almost two decades before. They taught me that records have a completely different sound than tapes or CDs. You can hear certain instruments better and the sounds on vinyl are full and warm. My first record collection looked a little something like this: Jimi Hendrix, Ramones, The Clash, White Stripes, and other bands of that nature. After I bought my first set of turntables, I started purchasing hip hop records. The hip hop records alone were awesome...until I found Serato and once the legendary MPC came along, sampling records became my life.
I was off and running, trying to find anything I could get my hands on. With all the soul and jazz influence in hip hop, I started learning about Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Earth, Wind and Fire, and other classics. I grew up in a predominantly white area so these records weren’t always easy to find. I was constantly finding classic rock, opera, folk music, and other stuff that I didn’t want to sample at all. I went to every Goodwill and touch every single record they owned. I would get strange looks from little old ladies wondering why this stylish young man wanted all these dusty records. I was able to find a few store owners that felt my pain. They would go to record conventions and bring back soul, funk, and jazz records to me. My best advice to anyone starting their own collection is to become friends with the owner. Tell them about what you do with records and show them that you are knowledgeable about your craft. That will impress them. Ask them what they like. You might be surprised. I found one of the best soul selections I’ve ever seen at a punk rock store. It just so happened that the owner was obsessed with soul and funk. Don’t ever give up finding YOUR records. Do the research. I used to read online forums and blogs, search for drum break records for weeks, find ones that were rare or just completely classic, and go to the stores with a list. This will save you an insane amount of money. Find producers that have records that they don’t like. If they don’t like them, you probably do. I have done that before. The producer had no clue that there was a drum break on two of the records he gave me and I made a great song with a few of them. I’m going to be real with you right now, I don’t listen to every single part of every record. I don’t know anyone that does. I also found some better tricks to make sample finding easier. I bought a portable turntable to bring to stores with me to listen to the records before I bought them. I learned about drummers, sax players, other instruments I found interesting. I realized when you look at older records, if they have a dark ridge in certain spots, that means something magical is happening there. Listen to the record without listening. Yes, listening without listening. If your ear is good enough, stuff jumps out at you. Sometimes, I will distract myself by doing something else while “not listening” and all of a sudden, bang! There it is. The perfect 5 seconds. Naturally, you just leap from the other side of the room! At one point, I had thousands of records in 3 different rooms of my house. When I made the big move to NYC, I realized that I had lots of unwanted crates and piles so my collection is a bit smaller BUT it’s a lot more useful. I have a few crates of records with drum breaks that I like. I keep the ones that I have already sampled separate from the ones that I would like to sample in the future. I encourage all of you to go to shops that have $1 record bins frequently. But remember to be smart about knowing the shops owners. Some stores will always suck and are just a waste of time for you and the needs of your collection. Other stores have so many records, the owners overlook records they had no idea they had in the store. I love when that happens because they are surprised and impressed at your $1 record find! So, be smart about the digging but also how your chop up the sample. Think about how many producers are out there today. We are all trying to stand out. So, do that. Stand out! I won’t tell you what I have been sampling a lot lately, but it has been forming a new sound for my brand. Mixing, chopping, and layering this new sound is incredible.
OH! Don’t forget about my last post how we talked about paying attention to the album art. If it speaks to you, it is probably doing that for a reason. Don’t overthink the digging. Make it fun and serious. Get a shit ton of records. You can always resell the ones you don’t like or put them in a pile to be donated back. (I do that all the time.)
I’m grateful to share my experience and tips here. If you have any questions, want to share what you’ve learned, or tell me about your own experience, comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there are any subjects you need help with, reach out and I will cover them in a future post or video.
Peace y’all. Now, go get dusty.