Record Label: Mello Music Group
Enter those bloody alleys blocked off with yellow tape and chalk outlines. Secret backrooms riddled with sly crooks and blunt smoke. Slink into the underworld, the seedy shadowland owned by Jeremiah Jae and L’Orange on their noir-hop opus, "The Night Took Us In Like Family."
Consider it the alchemy of Madvillain and "The Maltese Falcon": a five-part fable of tangled crimes, narrow escapes, and raining lead. The door busts open with “A Conspicuous Man.” L’Orange’s carefully severed cinematic clips hold the frame steady. The Windy City-raised Jae muscles the narrative forward—the hitman creeping.
Beats bend sinister with imagery aiming for the temples. Jae invokes dark clouds, crowns of thorns and LSD eyes. Bars written in dirt. Samples are disembodied and ethereal. It’s like a grand jury indictment doubling as a Greek chorus. A song title like “Ice Obsidian” says it all. This is frozen lava, black and white celluloid, the spoils won by sinners. Watch your back rap.
Or maybe it’s the hip-hop version of the gangster flicks made before the Hays Code—raw and uncensored, deeply artful without pretension. Pitchfork once described Jae as: “a lot of people talk loud and say nothing; Jeremiah Jae finds strength in the inverse." On "The Night Took Us In Like Family," he inhabits both eulogizer and executioner. He triumphantly looms over the corpses and explains how this all came to be. L’Orange supplies concrete requiems of dusted soul: beats to crack safes, soundtracks to stealth assassinations.
If gangsta rap remains one of the genre’s most well worn tropes, Jae and L’Orange take inspiration from the rarely tapped roots of the tradition. This isn’t riffing on Oliver Stone’s "Scarface" like popular cliché, but rather the original Al Capone exploitation flick from the early 30s. Jae conjures a villain who vaporizes. Run-the-Jewels-raw but still sophisticated. Cuban cigars stuffed with California chronic.
The picture unfolds wide frame. Guest stars include New York poison dart-thrower, Homeboy Sandman and Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab. The chapters flesh out the story: The Conspicuous Man skulks into “God Complex,” “The Damning,” “Revenge and Escape.” Jae and L’ Orange build their world as a catacomb and find a way to escape just as the walls feel like they’re closing in. It fades out as “A Macabre Instrumental” plays. The funeral is closed casket. The memories aren’t easily disposed.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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