I'd known about the Soul/Disco show at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York for a long time - a record convention held various times throughout the year for serious collectors of hard to find old funk, soul, R&B, dance, and jazz music. But I'd also heard all the stories about how high the prices are (see last month's column where my man Beni B summed it up: "come on, man... $200 for a record?"). And just as I'm known to the world as The Soulman, I'm also known to my closest friends as "Phill Most The Cheap Bastard"! Therefore I'd never had any intention of setting foot in The Roosevelt, where I'd see every unfindable record that's been on my list for years staring me in the face, close enough to touch yet sadly unattainable because of astronomical price tags. No, I'd just be content to rummage through the dollar bins at local flea markets, sifting through countless pieces of garbage to hopefully pull out an unnoticed Marva Whitney or Melvin Sparks lp (two of the very rare records I picked up recently for a buck each - oooh!). But after thinking about it for a while, it was like: yo, if I'm gonna do a column on beats then I can't front on this record show, what with so many of hip-hop's best producers regularly attending to purchase the raw minerals that will be transformed into rap's phattest tracks. So I called up two of my Baby Archaeologists - Abdullah The Old Schooler and Makim The Shadow representing uptown - and we went on a World Of Beats mission to the world famous Roosevelt Soul/Disco Show.
-Lighnin' Rod, "Hustier's Convention" (the original hip-hop record - I just had to use that shit)
Electricity, son. Record hunters flipping through hundreds of cardboard boxes stuffed with beautiful black vinyl. A veritable old record supermarket, with shoppers busily inspecting the merchandise with the scrutiny of an old woman checking how ripe the tomatoes are at the local Pathmark. And the Archaeologists are ready: 'Dullah with the camera for the flicks, Shadow with the minicam to document shit live (like he did at the beginning of Da Bush Babees' "We Run Things" video - check for the kid with the dreads and the hand held tv, that's him), and me with the tape recorder. As soon as l walk in I see my man from Philly, The Bounty Hunter. "Man, all y'all rap guys are buyin' up everything!" he tells me while checking through another dealer's cheapo crates, looking for something he can resell at a higher price, no doubt. "It must be about five hundred rap artists in this muhfuh! E'ybody and they mother lookin' for somethin'!"
He wasn't playin' either. A quick once over of the scene and I spotted numerous recognizable faces. Hardest to miss was PM Dawn's Prince Be (compiete with mountainous bodyguards), who was over in the corner at John Carraro's table scooping up damn near every beat that John pulled from his voluminous collection. "Ever heard this before?" John asked as he placed a platter onto his turntable. BOOMP-BOOMP-BAPP!! BOOMP-BA-BOOMP-BAPP!!
That was enough for the Prince - brotherman grabbed that shit up before I could even see the cover! I don't know if it's true or not, but rumour has it that Prince Be dropped a quick nine hundred ones on records right there before moving on to the next table - not an incredible sum for the big willies, but a fortune for working slobs such as yours truly!
Also over in John's corner was Diamond D, who took the time out from his crate digging to give me love for doing the column. "It's all good", he told me. "I'm glad there's an article like [The World Of Beats]". We talked about records for a minute (he told me about one of the songs he's doing for his next record, sounds like it's gonna be the butter), then it was back to the crates.
Many familiar faces walked by in this piece. Drumroll, please... Q-Tip, Rob Swift, The 45 King (who asked me about a Bill Doggett album with a picture of grilled franks on the jacket...I wasn't up on it, so he bought it anyway for the cover alone), Kid Capri, Shaheed from Poor Righteous Teachers, and a noticeably animated Large Professor, who flew quickly from one table to the next, rifling through boxes and talking to other beat hunters in the crowd. "Oh shit", Professor exclaimed when he spotted the Skull Snaps album displayed on a wall full of records. "Yeah, for two hundred dollars", I remarked. His eyes were still glued to the album and its hefty price tag for a few seconds, until they were pulled away by the sight of the Jimi Hendrix Songbook Ip by The Rubber Band. "You know about that?" I asked him. "Yeah, yeah" was the reply, never losing his near-hypnotic stare on that record. A true beat junkie at work. "'DulIah, you remember me buying that record from Pops, right?" I asked my Archaeologist partner. He didn't. So of course I did my little human beat-box version of the tune to jog his memory. "Oh yeah, I remember now", he lied - NOBODY could've recognized that song from my weak-ass beat-box performace! The Biz I'm not, believe me.
But even with all the celebrities in the house, the biggest stars by far were the records. Beni B told the truth: you'll see almost everything here. My head was spinning - Roy Ayers' "He's Coming" to the right of me; James Brown's "Sho Is Funky Down Here" to the left of me; Funk, Inc.'s "Super Funk" behind me; "Making Waves" by George Semper in front of me; and much, much more. Stuff that may be common to Roosevelt regulars but that I never see in my beat travels. Shit like the Brethren record or the Savage soundtrack...man, that kind of stuff is not even a big deal here. And yes, the prices are high, in some cases insanely high. Certain dealers just want to see if they can herb you and get away with it, and it's hard to blame them when you see foreigners buying up as much high priced vinyl as they can, seemingly oblivious to the cost. But in all fairness, you can find a lot of good deals as well if you take the time to really look through those boxes.
After a little more chit-chat with some of the people in the now overflowing crowd, including my man Matt Afrika (who was here to pick up a few jewels while visiting from the Bay Area), it was time to get gone. A very productive trip, everything went lovely - except that (strike one) I forgot to bring my records to trade with, and you know I'm too cheap to buy much shit, so I was going home damn near empty handed. Then we got back to the car and found (strike two) a big fat $40 ticket slapped on my windshield! Worse yet, once I got home I found out that all of those fat flicks I thought we'd gotten were non existent because (strike three) 'DuIIah's camera wasn't working! In the immortal words of Florida Evans, "Damn, damn, DAMN!!!"
One love goes out to Dexter Campbell for making this month's column possible.
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM THE SOULMAN
1. FLAVA IN YA EAR (REMIX) - Craig Mack
Plus I can't forget these honorable mentions: "Distortion To Static" by the Roots, Shyheim's "Bring The Drama", "It's On You" by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and Bahamadia's "Total Wreck". Stats to Philly's own Espo and On The Go magazine, an underground hip-hop publication that deals with rap music, gratitti, and the whole culture from a real perspective. For those who may not know, On The Go was one of the few mags that did a regular column on diggin' in the crates before The World Of Beats, so respect is unquestionably due (didn't get to see you at The Fever, son, but I was in the house. Good lookin', the show was nice). Had a lovely time out in Hollywood for the 'Sheet's Hip Hop Caucus (thanks to D and Ben for taking care of a brother on his first vpsit to the left coast). Highlights: Ol' Dirty Bastard gettin' tore down and tearin' shit up at The Palace, Brand Nubian's people beatin' down a soundman who shouldn't have jumped up, seeing Rosie Perez up close, eating a Fatburger, seeing Coolio, Def Jef, King Just, Ed Lover, and a host of emcees rippin' shit live and uncensored in the cramped studio of a local radio station (now that was hip-hop), and best of all, learning about "The Program". As always, send them letters to The Soulman.