The Beat Goes On

Big Mike Nawlins Phats
(2005, Blackstone) @ 320

Today I left my parents Grand Rapids, Michigan home to check The Beat Goes On, a record store in the middle of a (seemingly indefinite) going-out-of-business sale. I had first gone there four or five years ago on a blunt-fueled search for rap music in the city with DJ Prettyboi and was surprised to find discs like Al Kapone's Memphis Drama Vol 2 and Gangsta Pat albums from the early aughts. Most of it was too expensive to buy though (16.99+) so we walked out with some questionable no-name mixes with cracked cases. We were hunting for vinyl anyways, and they didn't have much to offer. Still, ripping off their Three 6 Mafia 12 x 12 promo posters was the closest we came to success outside of the smoke-filled car.

This year, I knew the store was going to offer me my only opportunity to cop some Twankle worthy bounty for yall. And the idea of irreversibility, of being located presently in a past one cannot return to, was enough for me to disobey the Buy No Records maxim imposed on this blog author ever since I decided to quit my job last summer.

Anyways, I got there. I leafed through the racks. My fingers felt the feeling of leafing, the memory of leafing, my eyes tightened to spy the diamonds in so much crap. For a while I lapsed into an obsessive state that lack of funds had temporarily shut down. Whenever I found something half-decent or even most-likely-less-than-half-decent-but-still-curiosity-sparking (like post tank Mr. Sev-on), I ran a cost-benefit analysis, applying the 25% of New, 40% of Used sale rules to the inflated tag price and weighing that against the value of listening twice, uploading, alphabetizing, storing, moving, case-breaking, case-replacing. Jewel cases crunch like the shells of cicadas. At least in the apartments I live in.

Meanwhile, some guy, as tall and white and lanky as I am, stood behind a camera and gave the store owner tips about how to perform in some in-progress video interview. "We're just talking, the camera isn't on". I couldn't tell if they were filming a public access commercial or this kid's undergraduate media studies homework. They spoke about the internet in a hilarious and alienated way that reminded me of my parents' facebook statuses and the smiley faces my dad inappropriately punctuates emails with. They talked about how vinyl has some value, some irreplaceability that "an itunes" doesn't. And this place, unlike the internet, has vinyl. Its in boxes on the floor and I already know better than to look there.

"What do you think has hurt you worse, the iTunes or the stealing, the Nero, the filesharing?"

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what is the most filesharable. My fingers have sifted through many good discs that I don't have, the Triple 6 Vol. 2 reissue, On the Outside Looking In, Chopper City. Stuff I have but don't have, stuff I know inside out. Laughing because I'm looking to buy something from this gentleman, but only so I can give it away. Sighing because if the right deal presented itself I would take loads off this guy. I would gut him, clean him out. There are things these sifting fingers can't resist. These Wicked Streets for 3 dollars. Buy 10 get 10 free. But the shift from 18 dollars to 13 doesn't do it. Should I tell him?

There are two other people in the store. One man is like a pint-sized bouncer. His red eyes meet mine every time I look towards him. I suspect he is like the Best Buy greeter. Maybe he's just one more of Michigan's long-term unemployed, looking for the feeling of work even without its traditional reward. The other is a woman, 30s, crutches. She keeps blocking the aisle.

There are stacks of CDs on top of the CDs. They all start falling down. The owner comes over and gives them a hard tap. "They were fine before people started mixing them up," he says. I'm not sure what he means, I can't dig without shifting them around. I continue to mix up his CDs.

I'm looking through 20 dollar DVDs. Luke video compilations, extended C-Murder advertisements, Adventures in Hollyhood. I want to absorb all the crap, find the crap's diamonds and share them with people lazier or less obsessed than myself. But the hunt is hopeless. I can't use more cracking shells and I wonder if this place ever moved good used records even before there was such a thing as an Ebay vulture.

I bought this excellent Big Mike record for the small advance in fidelity and another no-name mix with a cracked case, Best of DJ Melo-Mix Part 2. As I walked up to the counter the owner was answering another question.

"This is all I've been doing for 30 years. Ever since I was 18."

"No," he says, "I haven't thought about what I'll do next."

Time to make plans, I thought.


noz said...

Over thanksgiving I pulled a G-Slimm "Four Deuces" CD from the similarly going out of business (20% new/40% used) record store by my folks house in Delaware.

Scott said...

Maybe since rap cassettes survived well into the late 90's, music stores with a large stock of rap/R&B CD's might be the last to go. It's weird to imagine the day where buying music in a store is a rotary phone-style distant memory.

Thomas said...

Great post, I've been to a few CD stores going out of business lately and it always becomes immediately apparent exactly why they are going out of business. The shift from 18 to 13 does indeed not do it for most, including myself.