PHOTO CREDIT: REDEF RECORDS
There are a very few hip hop record labels left standing who focus their releases on the lost essence of beats, rhymes and cuts. Redefinition Records has a solid catalog of releases from some of today's true school artists such as Kev Brown, Kaimbr, Grap Luva and K-Def. We would also have to mention that Redef co-owner/artist Damu The Fudgemunk has received accolades from the who's who of producers including the likes of Marley Marl. If there is one word that sets Redef apart from the rest, that word would be...quality. On top of being able to deliver music that the people need on digital format, Redef has a multitude of limited vinyl releases as well as cassettes.
We had a chance to catch up with John (J-Nota) of Redef to chop it up about his recent cassette releases and the glory days of fast-forwarding and rewinding...
(SC) What was your first tape?
First tape I ever had was likely MJ's Thriller (I know I had the poster), but the first tape I bought for myself? I THINK it was LL's Mama Said Knock You Out. Before that I would just tape songs off the radio.
(SC) Do you still have your old tape collection?
I still have em all. Mixtapes, radio recordings, albums, singles, promos, almost everything.
(SC) Best music store to purchase tapes (old & new)
I dont know of any current shops that still sell tapes aside from maybe some second hand shops. I don't have any issue buying stuff I want on eBay or Amazon, because realistically the chances of finding what you want on tape in the real world are pretty slim. Growing up it was all about The Wiz (Nobody Beats The Wiz) for new releases on Tuesdays ... I think they had new releases for $7.98 ... but one of the best ways to get new tapes back then was at certain "mom n pop" shops a few days prior to release date, usually on a Friday when they just got the shipment in. SOME of those type of stores didnt mind breaking the release date, so you could occasionally score a new release a few days early, which was always a great feeling. I remember getting Raekwon's Cuban Linx tape that way, so on the following Monday while on the bus to summer school (long story), I was rocking the purple tape and thought I was cool because nobody else had it yet. I guess the modern day equivalent would be when someone rips an album and posts it on the net...
PHOTO CREDIT: BUTTONPUSHA(SC) Speak about YOUR recent tape release. (What inspired the release?)
When we see new releases come out and they only exist digitally, if feels like ... why? All of this new music that people are releasing only exists as files on a computer, and that's kinda sad. I'm all for digital content and media players and the conveniences they provide. I have an iPad, iPod, kindle, etc but when it comes to music that I like; I want to own a physical copy, I want to read liner notes and I want to have a physical manifestation of the artist's work. Otherwise, it just feels like somebody didnt value the art enough to finish the project or that the artist doesn't have a fanbase worthy of creating products for.
PHOTO CREDIT: BUTTONPUSHA
As far as Redefinition Records putting out tapes and why; we were getting ready to release The Alexander Green Project with Kev Brown & Kaimbr, and to me; the album is almost like a classic Wu-Tang solo album. On this album, Kaimbr is RAPPING (there's a difference between RAPPING and rapping, right?) and Kev took a use-one-record-per-beat approach to crafting the beats. Kev will tell you the same; the way he did the beats here was in many ways inspired by the Rza. Anyway, being that it was the Green project it just kinda felt right to make a Green Tape as our nod to Raekwon's purple tape. That was it. We made them as a promo-only, friends & family type of thing, so we didn't do artwork for it, but I based the layout of the text on the old Loud records cassette shells. People really responded to it and having a new tape in your hands, especially if the project is something you're involved with is a great feeling. Since then we pressed a couple other tapes and will continue to do so. They're not mass releases and they're really only for the handful of people who still value and respect art like we do.
PHOTO CREDIT: BUTTONPUSHA(SC) Most memorable tape moment.
I have many. Some of my best tape memories were based around the anticipation of going to the store on a release date, buying a new album, and then hearing the music for the first time on that occasion. Before the internet, the way we found out about and bought new music, and even how we perceived artists was so different. It was like a social event, too, because you would often roll with friends looking for the same music. That doesnt exist anymore. I remember going to different record stores on Tuesdays and looking all over the place for the new release that was supposed to come out that day, and then asking the store employees if a given album was in stock, only to be dissapointed to learn that the release date was pushed back. Wu-Tang was notorious for those type of delays. It was also a nice surprise going to the store and seeing new singles that you didnt know about until that day.
On another note, I remember having the Pete Rock & CL Smooth "Straighten It Out" cassingle and my friend thought it would be a funny prank to BEND the case in half and told me to "Straighten It Out Yourself" (get it ... Straighten It Out?) I wanted to kill him.
PHOTO CREDIT: REDEF RECORDS
(SC) What got you back into tapes? (collecting, releasing)
As Redef, we have been releasing music on vinyl, cd and digital formats. Formats we value and use. I guess I first got back into tapes because we were making these Green promo tapes, but then around that time, I started playing my old tapes again, especially the mixtapes and my old radio recordings. From there I started to remember why I appreciated the format and even the process involved. Each tape was like a moment in time that required the user to perform an action and to make decisions about what to include or how to use the space. Now with 3TB hard drives and gigs of space on our iPods, we almost have TOO much access to content which ironically leads to less appreciation. It takes two minutes to find and download an artist's whole discograophy and 1/16th of a second to skip to the next track or album. Still, if I had to chose between the tape and the iPod; iPod all day.
(SC) What do you think lies in the future for tapes? (Is it the new vinyl?)
I don't wanna rain on any parades, but in my opinion: Tapes are not the new vinyl and the future probably isn't much brighter than it is now. I do expect to see some more hip-hop labels releasing them, but I think for many it will be more of a gimmick type of thing or a quickly passing fad. We'll keep making them for whatever it's worth, and I'll keep playing my old tapes and the new ones we make. On a related note; I remember giving my barber a copy of a recent record we released and one of the other barbers in the shop was literally shocked to see a vinyl record. He asked if there was actual music on the record or if it was just a sticker we put on a piece of plastic. That was insane to me, but I guess that says a lot about where physical formats are headed and how they are perceived by young folks and especially those outside of our small circles of like-minded consumers. Tapes are dead. Long live tapes.