Everyone's got opinions, here's ours.
Check out our favorite releases and reissues of 2016, to be updated as the year goes on.
It all started at a Detroit strip club called Platinum, with a platter of deep-fried beef taquitos and a dancer whose face looked a bit like Burt Reynolds. It was here that Sam Baker first met a self-described fan of his, who gave him the sage advice to take his music work more seriously. Sam had long since graduated from tapping on piano, clarinet and video games to working on the MPC and 404 under the name Samiyam, circulating beat tapes among local crew in Michigan, and zip files to friends on the web. He was among a network of post-Donuts hip-hop producers focusing on instrumentals as the work, rather than traditional MC/producer collaborations, who found themselves migrating west and huddling in the scene around the Low End Theory in east Los Angeles. That's where Flying Lotus met Sam and picked him for the debut release on his Brainfeeder label, 2008's Rap Beats Vol. 1. Sam Baker's Album followed in 2011. His Wish You Were Here showed up on Leaving Records in 2013, along with production work for Earl Sweatshirt, Captain Murphy and Pharoahe Monch along the way. Samiyam has been extended Stones Throw family for a while now, and debuts on the label with Animals Have Feelings, an album which he considers the creative sequel to Rap Beats Vol. 1. As he tells it, "Animals has roots in beats made around the time of Vol. 1, and the new stuff on the record has some of the same sound." The record is classic instrumental hip-hop, mixed with a handful of rap tracks he did with the few MC collaborators he chooses to work with: Earl Sweatshirt ("Mirror"), Action Bronson ("Mr. Wonderful"), Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd ("Lord of the Rings").
The Wilderness is Explosions In The Sky's sixth album, and first non-soundtrack release since 2011's Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. True to its title, The Wilderness explores the infinite unknown, utilizing several of the band' s own definitions of "space" (outer space, mental space, physical geography of space) as compositional tools. The band uses their gift for dynamics and texture in new and unique ways - rather than intuitively fill those empty spaces, they shine a light into them to illuminate all the colors of the dark. From the electronic textures of the opening track to the ambient dissolve of closer "Landing Cliffs, " The Wilderness is an aggressively modern and forward-thinking work - one that wouldn't seem the slightest bit out of place on a shelf between original pressings of Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. It is an album where shoegaze, electronic experimentation, punk damaged dub, noise, and ambient folk somehow coexist without a hint of contrivance - and cohere into some of the most memorable and listenable moments of the band's expansive body of work - "proper" studio albums and major motion picture soundtracks alike. The progressive ambience of early Peter Gabriel, the triumphant romanticism of The Cure in their prime, and the more melancholy moments of Fleetwood Mac all inform the curious beauty of The Wilderness . The uncanny ability to reconcile the tension between discordant, nightmarish cacophony and laid-back, Laurel Canyon-inspired folk-rock is a cornerstone of this album, and the center of Explosions In The Sky's remarkable evolution. If The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place was the defining album of Explosions In The Sky's career, The Wilderness is the band's [re]defining album.
Amnesia Scanner's Young Turks debut, the 12" EP AS, is also the duo's commercial physical release.
Red Apples 45 takes a flight out west on the next release. This time teaming up Ray West with west coast MC BLU for an introspective EP titled Crenshaw Jezebel: a melodic ride where BLU's flow and word play blend with Rays sound to create a vibe of street essence & relationship conflicts . A 12 inch vinyl/digital release with custom art from legendary Joe Buck and Features Red Apples own AG of DITC, DAVE DAR & ES-K
The new studio album from RJD2, “Dame Fortune,” continues the sonic exploration that was started 14 years ago on his seminal debut “Deadringer.” An entirely self-produced and engineered affair, long-time vocal collaborators appear here: Blueprint, Son Little (aka Aaron Livingston, the other half of the Icebird duo), Phonte Coleman and Jordan Brown, along with newcomer Josh Krajcik (runner up on the 2011 season X-Factor). Always soulful, perpetually psychedelic, this album has found the lost threads connecting Aloe Blacc, Tangerine Dream King Crimson. From the jagged, angular deconstruction of “A New Theory” and “The Sheboygan Left,” to the poignant elegance of “Peace of What” and “We Come Alive,” the album “Dame Fortune” further cements RJD2 as a force to be reckoned with behind the boards.
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Double colored 180gm LP housed in a tip-on gatefold jacket. Following on the success of the ROBOCOP reissue, Nicolas Winding Refn and Milan Records are proud to present the vinyl reissue of the original score to The Terminator supervised and mixed by composer Brad Fiedel himself!
2016 repress includes Battles' stellar Warp debut on 2LP vinyl with gatefold packaging, download card and a poster insert. Few albums can match Battles' Warp debut for innovation coupled with accessibility. On Mirrored, Ian Williams, Dave Konopka and Tyondai Braxton found the subverted soul of glam, pushed it through the avant-machine (Reich, Riley), grew some overdriven metal guitar chops, listened to a whole lot of African music and consorted with the Aphex devil. It might sound like a mess written down, but the way the band pull these disparate influences together makes for some of the most continually thrilling music, even when considered several years down the line. 'Atlas' must be one of the strangest and catchiest instrumental pop songs ever made, and there are plenty of other thrills to be found here, like the playfully glinting vocal abstractions of 'Tonto' or the twists and turns of 'Rainbow'.
Potential is the new album from producer James Hinton under his alias of The Range. The magic of Potential - his first album for Domino, following 2013's Nonfiction - is as a document of its time. The Range has made an electronic record inspired by Baltimore club, early ‘00s grime and mid ‘00s electronica, but also as a member of the last generation that will remember going online for the first time. As its backbone, Potential utilizes a series of vocal samples that Hinton found in the deep corners of YouTube, introducing us to unknown artists expressing themselves unfettered by the constraints of industry. He might be fascinated by the code that determines his YouTube searches, but what truly grips him are the human stories behind the samples. Hinton explains, "I found each person by using a small set of search terms on YouTube. Each song is inextricably linked to the point in time that I came across each video. I endeavored to tie the songs of Potential together by telling my own story alongside the stories of the people I sampled. Every song tries to acknowledge a sense of vulnerability or difficulty in life, as well as an intense drive to cope with problems in ways that don't drag you into the abyss." In addition to the forthcoming album Potential, a documentary titled Superimpose, directed by Daniel Kaufman, out this spring, will look at the human stories behind the unknown artists included on the album. As Hinton states, "I am very conscious that these people who I have sampled elevate what I do, just as much as my record brings their work somewhere else."
Limited Edition of 400 Copies on Dark Green Vinyl! There is simply nothing more welcoming to the ears than a new Emancipator record. Slathered with organic rhythms and dripping with fusion atmospheres, Doug Appling’s (Emancipator) newest creation is once again a freely majestic pilgrimage into the depths of worldly sound. Seven Seas could not be a more appropriate name, as the album could easily fit flawlessly as the soundtrack to an oceanic escapade lasting months, or even years, in exile. The inclusion of electronic elements is no foreign concept to Appling, but nor is it any predominant requirement. Occasional synthesizer beams scan themselves across the sound spectrum being produced. The focal point of each composition, however, remains the pressing organic elements signature to the Emancipator sound. Frequently accompanied by live violin, and more recently a larger arrangement in the form of the Emancipator Ensemble, Appling has shown tirelessly that the presence of live instrumentation is a key component of his vision. Teasing guitar strums and chiming piano keys often introduce the songs of Seven Seas. Each composition emerges out of its organic components. The structures are kept minimal, but steadily moving through constant evolution to maintain the listener’s interest. At the root, these are electronically produced instrumentals, but taking an overall perspective there is truly so much more happening within the confines of the record. Each track is segmented, implementing distinct sections through which its instrumental and production components can highlight themselves and bask in their own, natural beauty. Not only does the release add to the furthering impressive discography of Emancipator, but also that of Appling’s own founded label, Loci Records. The Portland, Oregon label has seen itself home to the releases of numerous artists clearly inspired by Appling’s own musical expeditions, each dipping their personal touches on to their according audio canvases. (Kyle Taylor http://funkadelphia.wordpress.com)
Since debuting nearly 20 years ago, Planet Asia has continued to cement himself as one of the best to ever touch the mic. And that’s become especially apparent these past few years as the Fresno, Calif. rapper has dropped one distinguished project after the next. That trend only continues with ‘Seventy Nine,’ a tightly constructed and ambitious new concept album from Planet Asia and Long Island producer, DJ Concept. Their collective effort helped structure the framework heard throughout ‘Seventy Nine,’ which is that of a classic ‘79 Seville that narrates their journey. Each track crackles and fades into the next like you’re moving the radio dial, which allows for the smooth transitions within the album. The LP also demonstrates a balance of science and soul; “79” being the scientific number for gold (which has played an integral part of PA’s brand over the years), and Concept’s soulful production style. Both play a significant role in shaping the record, which also boasts an impressive lineup of guest features which include TriState, Marvelous Mag, Sean Price, Blu, Agallah, John Robinson, SmooVth, DJ Revolution, DJ Pain 1, and DJ Devastate. ‘Seventy Nine’ will be available in limited quantities on gold vinyl, courtesy of Coalmine Records. *Album download card and 12” insert included.
Love Streams takes its cues from the avant-classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of Tim Hecker's previous full-length, 2013’s Virgins, but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues. Inspired by notions of 15th century choral scores (particularly those by Josquin des Prez), transposed to an artificial intelligence-era language of digital resonance and bright synths, the album was assembled gradually, with layers of studio-tracked keyboards, choir and woodwinds being woven into the mix, then molded and disfigured through complex programming. Like hearing some ancient strain of sacred music corrupted by encryption, Hecker admits to thinking about ideas like “liturgical aesthestics after Yeezus” and the “transcendental voice in the age of auto-tune,” during its creation. The Love Streams sessions took place throughout 2014 and 2015 at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland – where parts of both Virgins and Ravedeath, 1972 were tracked – with Hecker reuniting with the same crew of collaborators from Virgins (Kara-Lis Coverdale, Grímur Helgason) and bolstered by the Icelandic Choir Ensemble, whose vocal arrangements were scored by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson. The title of Hecker’s new work can be interpreted any number of ways – erotic, technological, spiritual – although his own conception is appropriately vast, calling it “a riff on the ubiquity and nihilism of streaming of all forms of life.” Now we stream more than we love. Nowadays music too frequently resembles a product, or white noise. With a career spanning fifteen years, Tim Hecker belongs to a select camp actively resisting this undertow, this reduction in significance.
It’s Now! Eternally! Easy, Tender, Loving Sound. The Guide is You. The Glide is Life. Be Yourself, Live Fully - That’s what the Vibrations are Encouraging, Echoing, Waving, Glowing, Singing, Rippling, Radiating. Matthewdavid’s Mindflight is Heart Music. It’s a record of beauty that has evolved from explorations into his deepest emotions, visions and imagination. The Flights were most directly inspired by his profound connection with Michael Stearns’ Planetary Unfolding (Continuum Montage, 1981). You can feel that Trust is it’s Brother. Stearns speaks of Dreams, Resonance, Unity, and Ecstasy. Matthew adds that this journey has been one of Healing, Discovery, Finding, and Transformation. The two and their kindred are wondrous Sonic-Energetic-Midwives helping to usher in this age of Expanded Consciousness. The process and source are Extra and Terrestrial, Synthesized, Improvised (Live on Dublab Radio) Meditations. Sourced from the well of spiritual expression, these recordings were further realized in Abelton. You’re flying through the mystical world of Gilbert William’s cover, the software technology is dancing with circuitry, Flute, Harp, Hulusi, Water, Sonar, Quasar, and microtonal language are Tied and Dyed in the moment. The Mind is programmed by the Heart. With an open Heart the Mind can apply our gifts. I asked Matthew what he’s seen on / in his Mindflights: “Unconditional Love! Stillness - Centeredness,” he replied. “I’ve seen and felt my ancestors, I’ve heard the songs of humanity . . .” Welcome, Listen, Hear, Here, Now, Celebrate! Joyously Written with Trust the Guide and Glide on repeat, Tuesday, December 8, 2015, in Woodland Hills, California - Carlos Niño
Open Mike Eagle dominated End of Year Lists with his last album, "Dark Comedy" - making USA Today, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork's "Best of" Lists at the end of 2014. During 2015 he toured Europe & North America, as well as making television appearances on Comedy Central's "Why With Hannibal Burress" alongside Thundercat & Flying Lotus, Midnight w/ Chris Hardwick, and the Eric Andre Show. During all of this he completed his strongest album to date, "Hella Personal Film Festival" with UK producer Paul White. You may know Paul White from his solo work, or his production work with Danny Brown, Homeboy Sandman, or Yasiin Bey (Mos Def). But, his work with Open Mike sets a new standard for cohesiveness and creativity. Eclectic, inspired and at times jarring, the sound is Arthouse Hiphop at its best. The new album, "Hella Personal Film Festival," features are sparse and pointed, one from the legendary Aesop Rock and the other from Future Islands frontman Hemlock Ernst. The topics are profound and timely, fresh in their perspective. This is one for heavy rotation.
Deluxe gatefold edition features two additional tracks. GRAMMY® award-winning singer-composer-bassist Esperanza (Emily) Spalding has announced her newest project, Emily's D+Evolution. Rekindling her childhood interest in theater, poetry and movement, this new project delves into a broader concept of performance. Originally conceived the day before her birthday, during a "sleepless night of full moon inspiration", Emily's D+Evolution will be performing all new material thatEsperanza says "unfolds as live musical vignettes.” "Emily is my middle name, and I'm using this fresh persona as my inner navigator. This project is about going back and reclaiming un-cultivated curiosity,and using it as a compass to move forward and expand." says Spalding. "My hope for this group is to create a world around each song, there are a lot of juicy themes and stories in the music. We will be staging the songs as much as we play them, using characters, video, and the movement of our bodies."
Bibio will release his seventh album, A Mineral Love, on April 1st through Warp Records. According to the artist: "This album celebrates the sacred and precious struggles of human insecurities through many windows of familiar musical forms. It's also a celebration of my love of the craft of record making, drawing influences from many sources across all decades from the late sixties to the present. All these referential forms have a twist, some are more full on cocktails."
This is the first release from Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge as Nxworries. The EP includes the new single “Link Up,” “Suede” and “Droogs,” a Knxwledge remake of the Anderson .Paak single, along with instrumental bonus beats.
ANOHNI has collaborated with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke on the artist's latest work, HOPELESSNESS. Late last year, ANOHNI, the lead singer from Antony and the Johnsons, released “4 DEGREES", a bombastic dance track celebrating global boiling and collapsing biodiversity. Rather than taking refuge in good intentions, ANOHNI gives voice to the attitude sublimated within her behavior as she continues to consume in a fossil fuel-based economy. ANOHNI released “4 DEGREES,” the first single from her upcoming album HOPELESSNESS, to support the Paris climate conference this past December. The song emerged earlier last year in live performances. As discussed by ANOHNI: "I have grown tired of grieving for humanity, and I also thought I was not being entirely honest by pretending that I am not a part of the problem," she said. “’4 DEGREES' is kind of a brutal attempt to hold myself accountable, not just valorize my intentions, but also reflect on the true impact of my behaviors.” The album, HOPELESSNESS, to be released world wide on May 6th 2016, is a dance record with soulful vocals and lyrics addressing surveillance, drone warfare, and ecocide. A radical departure from the singer’s symphonic collaborations, the album seeks to disrupt assumptions about popular music through the collision of electronic sound and highly politicized lyrics. ANOHNI will present select concerts in Europe, Australia and the US in support of HOPELESSNESS this Summer.
Shrouded in mystery, hailing from Hamburg, Germany, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band (BRSB) releases their long awaited debut “55” on Brooklyn’s own Big Crown Records. Long time multi instrumentalist and band leader Bjorn Wagner spent a few months in Trindad & Tobago where he became fascinated with Steel Drums. His initial intrigue with local steel pan music culture led him to learning the instrument both through help of local players and on his own. After he became proficient on the pans Bjorn had his own instrument built from a used oil barrel by legendary pan man Louis C. Smith. Upon returning home to Germany, Bjorn set out to blend the Tropical Steel into his already sharply honed Funk, Soul, and Hip Hop sensibilities. The outcome is an updated take on a classic format, a truly unique sound. Their first two recordings were covers of The Meters “Look A-Py-Py” & “Ease Back” which they self released on a 45. Looking back on these two sides you can tell they were just getting their chops up for what was to come next. This is evidenced by how all hell broke loose when they went on to cover 50 Cent’s hit PIMP taking the DJ and vinyl collecting communities by storm. Many people thought the recording was the original sample and probably still do to this day when it is played. The original Mocambo pressing sold out quickly and is now a collector’s item fetching heavy prices when it changes hands. It was this tune that made the introduction between Bjorn and Danny Akalepse of Big Crown. They immediately hit it off and starting making plans to do a full length project with the band. Keeping in the tradition of Steel Drum records, 55 is a journey through re-interpolations and covers with an updated approach, pushing Steel Pan music to uncharted territory. Flawlessly bringing previously untouched genres into the steel pan cannon ranging from Underground Hip Hop tunes to staple Funk tracks and some of all that falls in between. From the smoothed out Reggae cover of John Holt’s “Police In Helicopter” to the DJ sure shot cover of Faith Evans' “Love Like This” BRSB’s 55 is reinvigorating tunes both well known and helping to shed some light on tunes still largely undiscovered. However, some of the strongest tunes on the album are original compositions, from spaced out Disco vibes on “Beetham Highway Ride” and “Port Of Spain Hustle” to the ugly face inspiring drums of “Laventille Road March”. Recorded to analog 8 track tape at The Mocambo Studios in Hamburg, 55 is a gritty, punchy journey in sound drawing on music from around the world, using production aesthetics from across both eras and genres, all coming together seamlessly. If the 45s that have already come out on Mocambo, Plane Jane, and Truth & Soul are an indication, this full length is going to be a staple to both casual listeneners and Disc Jockeys alike. Catch BRSB live in Fall as they tour the world with the mysterious heavy sound that is in fact, all their own.
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Gatefold sleeve with silver foil detail cover. The 11 track album on two heavyweight 12" vinyl records, includes card to redeem a 320kbit MP3 or 16-bit WAV download of the 11 track album when you receive the vinyl. Radiohead's long-awaited 9th studio album, produced by Nigel Godrich. Album cover art by Stanley Donwood.
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Julianna Barwick's revelatory third full-length, Will, is the Brooklyn experimental artist's most surprising left turn to date. Conceived and self-produced over the past year in a variety of locations, the electric Will departs from the weighty lightness of 2013's Nepenthe. If Nepenthe conjured images of gentle fog rolling over desolate mountains, then Will is a late afternoon thunderstorm, a cathartic collision of sharp and soft textures that sounds ominous and restorative all at once. Will comes off of Barwick's busiest period in her career to date following Nepenthe - a spate of activity that included playing piano for Yoko Ono, performing at the 25th annual Tibet House Benefit Concert alongside such kindred spirits as the Flaming Lips and Philip Glass, the Rosabi EP and an extensive touring schedule that included her first-ever shows in Japan. Her life over the past several years has largely been lived in transit, and as such the genesis of Will was not beholden to location; Barwick reflects on this cycle of constant motion. "You're constantly adjusting, assimilating, and finding yourself in life-changing situations."That sense of forward propulsion is largely owed to what Barwick describes as Will's "synthy flava," an ingredient she was inspired to add to her vocal loop-heavy formula after demoing equipment for synth maker Moog. Another new wrinkle Will introduces in Barwick's sound: Mas Ysa's Thomas Arsenault, who lends his richly complex vocals to "Same" and "Someway." The beguiling, beautifully complicated Will is the latest proof yet of Barwick's irresistibly engaging talent.
Long awaited 2016 album from Clams Casino, the iconoclast hip-hop producer. His debut album includes 12 original tracks with vocal appearances from an impressive cast of collaborators, including Vince Staples, Kelela, Sam Herring (Future Islands), Joe Newman (alt-j) and more. The album also includes his first ever collaboration between A$AP Rocky and Lil B, on the track "Be Somebody." Creative direction and design on 32 Levels is by Trevor Jackson, the renowned art director, designer, moving-image maker, producer and Output Recordings label founder. In 2011, Clams Casino compiled a set of his favorite beats into the now essential mixtape Instrumentals Vol 1, that he achieved widespread recognition. Rolling Stone called him a "visionary," Spin described his music as "fascinating and ominously exhilarating" and he was lauded on BBC Radio 1 by legendary producer Brian Eno.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' sixteenth studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree’ follows the Bad Seeds' most critically and commercially successful release of recent times, ‘Push the Sky Away’ (2013). Skeleton Tree began its journey in late 2014 at Retreat Studios, Brighton, with further sessions at La Frette Studios, France in autumn 2015. The album was mixed at AIR Studios, London in early 2016.
Still Brazy is the second studio album by American rapper YG. He enlisted the production on the album that was handled and provided such as Ty Dolla $ign and Hit-Boy; as well as enlisted collaborators from Lil Wayne and Slim 400, among others.
2814 are one of the most innovative musical acts in recent memory. Blending breathtaking ambient soundscapes and futuristic downtempo experiments with a gorgeous sense of electronic melancholy and urban atmosphere, the ever-elusive duo’s sound is defined by their brilliant adoration for warped, hypnagogic nostalgia and the simultaneous outlook into a futuristic dystopian setting – a winning combination of loss and optimism translated through a heavily altered new age lens. Rain Temple, their third full-length album, represents a new chapter in 2814′s sound: sprawling synth drones, beautifully distant vocals, swirling percussion, and an ethereal sonic aura tie together a simply masterful record. HKE and t e l e p a t h have once again created a stunning artistic statement that exceeds expectation and goes far beyond most modern ambient music, reminding us that beyond our late night somber and eternal wonder, we all remain.
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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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