January 01, 2020

Happy New Year: Start Diggin' In The Crates (Vibe, 2001)


Although hip hop's history stretches back more than 20 40 years, its fans are shockingly lacking a sense of history. Ageist, fickle, and attention-deficit, young hip-hop heads crane their necks trying to sneak a peek at what will be hot tomorrow and rarely look over their shoulders at the rich legacy that rap has already bequeathed them. Part of the blame should be placed on the classic rap labels, including Tommy Boy, Def Jam, Jive, and Wild Pitch. They have largely neglected to do with their backlist what rock labels like Columbia and Warner Bros have been doing for years: release reissues that add new luster to dusty titles and introduce heritage acts to new audiences. But all that's changing... Suddenly, several of the older hip hop labels are digging into their crates and bringing out the classics... "I think there's a nostalgia for that freshness of inclusion now, and these records will help fill that need." Tommy Boy's Steve Knuston's target was the backpacker demographic: alternative hip-hop fans and DJs who are "tired of looking for this stuff on eBay." The article in Vibe (June, 2001) continues by discussing expectations and sales projections, which were fairly modest at the time, but clearly this is an ongoing case... Over the years, labels overseas have licensed music from artists and labels for countless reissues: on vinyl, CD, cassette and box sets. With a decline in physical sales and the overwhelming shift to streaming, it's still that backpacker audience that's being targeted - successfully - as a niche audience to ship to. I guess some hipsters, too. Labels like Get On Down, Slice of Spice, Tuff Kong Records, Fat Beats, Back2Da Source, Hip-Hop Enterprise, Six2Six, Dope Folks Records, Chopped Herring, Heavy Jewelz, and lots more have successfully capitalized on this market. As a new label, Griselda has also successfully marketed their physical releases to fans. Salute them, although many fans are unable to afford or refresh their feed quickly enough to cop products. I expect to see continued growth in 2020. Support them!