By now you may have seen the reports that vinyl sales had a significant increase in 2012. I witnessed it first-hand at Fifth Element and Rhymesayers. The Pre-Orders for Rhymesayers releases saw rather noticeable increases in what percentage was vinyl. As a Hip Hop DJ and music lover, who was raised on vinyl that is awesome, but not a complete surprise. Vinyl has long been a beloved format for many people. For the most part, the people didn’t abandon vinyl, the industry did. The industry started to try to phase it out once it discovered the CD in the late 80s and the effect was felt quickly in the early 90s with many albums becoming difficult to find on vinyl. Yet, when the Indie 12” revolution spawned in the mid 90s then vinyl sales shot up again. Now, here we are again, labels are manufacturing vinyl and people are buying it. I know it’s not quite that simple, but the basic rule with vinyl is, if you manufacture it, people will purchase it, particularly if they like the artist and you make cool product.
Honestly, the same argument can’t be made for tapes, at least not from my experience. Most people happily abandoned tape their decks for CD Players or their Walkman for a Discman. No fast-forwarding or rewind; a easy way to get to the songs you really want to hear?* Plus superior sound quality, unless you just like that tape hiss sound. And you don’t have to worry about the tape breaking or getting snagged in the heads of the machinery and getting all jumbled up (see lead photo for example). I still have a handful of tapes from the 80s that are loose off the spool that I fantasize one day I will fix…no matter how unlikely it is that I will actually spend the time doing so. It makes for a nice retirement project perhaps.
Truth be told, I wasn’t one of those quick to leave the tape behind. I was likely the last one of my friends to own a CD Player. However, that wasn’t really due to an undying love for tapes. I’m generally the last of the progressive-like minded people to upgrade to new technologies, which keeps me just ahead of the curve of the masses. It’s less about being loyal to things and more about me just being comfortable about what I’m working with. I’m not always looking for the newest and fastest way to do things. I generally make the switch as needed, such as if my tape deck broke in the 90s, rather than buy a new one I’d just buy a CD player. However, that isn’t what happened in my case. In 1993 I went to the mall excited to buy De La Soul’s “Buhloone Mine State” album on tape on the release date and not one store in the mall had it…on tape, they only had the CD. Aggravated, but way too excited to miss out, I brought the CD and a cheap CD player just so I could hear De La Soul NOW!
Eventually I fully converted, but I still made use of the tapes on the regular. When I was doing Time Travel in the early 00s, during the CDR album wildfire, I felt like I was last guy still bringing cassette tapes to the radio station to play. I had Tapes, Vinyl, CDs, CDRs, Mini Disc, DAT Tapes, etc… I didn’t care what the format was, if there was good music on it then I played it. Plus I have a pretty fantastic tape collection. I’m not saying I have the world’s best Rap Tape Collection, but I AM saying that it certainly warrants representation in any such competition that would arise. I’m confident my tape collection could hold it’s own, its strength lies in its diversity. There’s 100s of studio albums from Major and Indie artists. There’s endless stacks of demo tapes, Mixtapes, live show recordings, Cassingles, artists interviews, freestyles, rare album dubs, and let’s not forget my home tape compilations that I started in the early 80s. Circa ’82 I started with tape #1 and constantly made need ones as new music came out and continued this series until about ’99 or so with approximately 300 tapes in the set, it’s essentially a Hip Hop Chronology Time Line. If you want to Rap Tape Collection battle let me know….ha.
Still, I thought the only people enjoying Rap on tape in recent times was myself, J Zone and maybe a hand full of others. Imagine my surprise when early last year people started coming in asking if we had anything on tape. Cue Joeski Love’s, “Huh? What?” After a few inquiries, I went down to the basement for the only tapes we had, DJ Abilities “For Persons With DJ Abilities”. We had nearly given up on selling those because the CD is still in print and no one ever got the tapes. I put them back on the shelves and we were selling them more steadily than I couldn’t believe. I kept thinking, someone else working here thought it was a waste and put them back in the basement, but no, I would check and we sold out of them again…
Eventually, I started to hear more and more about this Tape Revolution and people requesting things on Tape and labels started to comply. Then I saw a new blog outlet pop up called Rap Tapes that was dedicated to the Hip Hop Cassette era. They did cool interviews and photos of tapes. For 2013 they have switched their name to Strictly Cassette and our launching as a label this year with that exact business plan in mind. Yep, that’s right, they are only releasing things on tape!
I think this is intriguing and I’m curious to see where it all goes. I’m sure to buy some tapes myself. I actually have found myself looking at the use tape section in record stores that I used to go shop for vinyl at, so I guess I already got the bug. Are any of you ready for the Tape Revolution????
Written By Kevin “Tape Collector Supreme” Beacham
*Of course, that could have been fixed with making better albums with less filler so people wouldn’t want to fast-forward and so anticipating the next great song that they could hold off on the rewind as well and just listen to the whole album again. But, that’s a radical idea for another time… :)
Also, I've been doing a new video series on my tumblr showcasing the many treats in my possession (records, toys, electronic gadgets, comic books stuff, etc...) and my extensive tape collection is the next batch of videos I'll start sneaking out soon. Consider this a precursor...
HERE'S HOW I USED TO ROLL IN THE 90S, MEGA TAPES ON THE BACK SEAT, IT'S AMAZING I NEVER GOT JACKED:
THE BASEMENT STUDIO IN THE EARLY 00S: WHAT RARITIES CAN YOU PEEP?
PHOTO FROM THE DJ NIKOLESS "HISS-STORY" PHOTO SHOOT (BY T. FORD)