Record Label: BBE
It’s the crate digger’s dream or nightmare. The modern day musical archaeologist is always in search of that elusive piece of a musical puzzle. Dusting off a slice of unknown vinyl or a mystery tape in a battered box might just open up another chapter of discovery that illuminates the art of the people. Enter 180 Proof’s Amir Abdullah who, since 2010, has been getting dusty digits sifting through the master tapes in the Strata studio in Detroit. It’s there that he discovered and was blown away the voice and vibe of TJ. “I came across the TJ demo tapes back in 2012 when I secured the exclusive license to the whole Strata Records catalog,” explains Amir who plans an imminent release of the four tracks on 10” vinyl in conjunction with BBE Records. “My first response to hearing the demo was WOW! Frankly, the sound quality was not good but the soul and passion of the music was unbelievable. I immediately thought about a young Shuggie Otis when hearing the songs.”
As with the rediscovery of Shuggie Otis’‘Inspiration Information’, by the likes of Gilles Peterson back in the 90’s, there are always questions to be asked. With Shuggie Otis there was lineage plus the image of a hip young guy with a big ‘Fro and acoustic guitar.Two decades on he’d simply dropped off the radar.What happened? With TJ there’s only the tape and says Amir, “There was no info on the master just the name TJ. I don’t know when the TJ was recorded at all.The strata catalog is from 73- 75 and it’s one of many recordings that were recorded but never released. I sat on the music for three years because I couldn’t afford to clean it up and remaster it properly until now.“ “As the Strata curator, I felt that this recording def fits in with what the Strata catalog is about. The soul and passion of the lyrics are heartfelt.As you can hear, most of the songs are about love. The raw form of just him, a guitar with vocal layers is so rough but it def represents the grittiness of the sound of Strata. I think the TJ represents what the Strata mottos were about: ‘The Sound of Detroit’ and ‘All Musics For All Peoples’. What makes me want to release this in its raw and rough form is that the genius of this re-cording cannot be denied. I hope that TJ somehow hears that the recording is out. I would love to give full credit to him and the musicians.” In 2016 Amir Abdullah and 180 Proof Records continue to dig deeper. Tune in and join in on the search for TJ.
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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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