Kanye West Rapping at Fat Beats in '96, and DJ Eclipse's Other Discoveries

Categories: Fat Beats

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A Young Kanye West
It's been four years since New York's treasured hip-hop mothership Fat Beats closed down its historic 6th Avenue location. But while the physical space may no longer contain rows upon rows of vinyl and hungry rappers freestyling for absolutely anyone, the store's legacy has found a new interest online thanks to its ambassador, turntable legend DJ Eclipse, who has been digitizing his Fat Beats archives, including the earliest known footage of Kanye West rapping. We spoke to Eclipse about these archives and documenting a time of New York hip-hop pre-YouTube.

See also: Sorry, But Kanye Is the GOAT

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The Brown Bag Allstars Remember Their Days Behind Fat Beats' Counter

When the West Village record store Fat Beats closed its doors in 2010, the New York City hip-hop scene lost an iconic part of its landscape. But for the rapper/DJ/producer collective Brown Bag AllStars, the store's demise smarted harder than most—they worked there. It's a time in their lives the crew has now chosen to pay tribute to with the song "406," named after Fat Beats' address and included on their new LP Brown Label Part Two. In honor of the track, here's the Brown Bag AllStars' look back on their days tending shop, complete with favorite in-stores, famous customers, and the importance of the bathroom in the downstairs deli.

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Fat Beats Is Opening A Pop-Up Store In Brooklyn Next Week

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And here's what it'll look like
The September shuttering of deified NYC record store Fat Beats was a somber occasion for hip-hop fantatics nationwide, the definitive marking of the end of an underground-rap era, a sad sign of the times that surprised no one and depressed everyone. (The tiny West Village spot's going-away party was pretty great, though, if you managed to get in.) Fatbeats.com lives on, though, and now comes word that every so often they'll invite everyone to Brooklyn for a little party at their warehouse.

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SOTC Nightlife Awards: The Best One-Offs, the Best Party To Take Anyone To, and More

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Farewell, Fat Beats
​Before we sink into holiday hibernation, we thought we'd take a moment to reflect on our exploits, and present to you our very own 2010 SOTC Nightlife Awards. Below, our fifth and final installment examines the rest of the best.

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Live: Fat Beats Hosts A Cathartic Going-Away Party, Whether You Made It Inside Or Not

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Yeah, it got a little crowded. Pics by Puja, more below.
Fat Beats' Final In-Store
Fat Beats
Saturday, September 4

Hundreds of people stood outside underground hip-hop mecca Fat Beats Saturday evening, as the West Village spot closed down for good with a farewell in-store party featuring DJ Premier, A-Trak, Just Blaze, DJ Spinna, and a massive crowd of fans and record collectors. Most of those on the street had been standing around for hours, knowing there was little to no chance of their making it inside the tiny store, but they all hopefully stared up at the windows nonetheless. A rumble of cheers erupted at any glimpse of a DJ through the fogged glass or a recognizable face (be it a producer or longtime store employee) being escorted into the building. Clumps of people reminisced about the first records they heard at Fat Beats, while others broke out into breakdancing circles and even a few freestyle battles. Founder and owner Joseph Abajian monitored the mayhem himself, spending much of his last day at the store on the street with the people who helped keep it going for so long. From the outside in, today was about respect.

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Remembering Fat Beats, The Best Record Store In Underground Hip-Hop History

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Gang Starr flanking Fat Beats owner Joseph Abajian, who unfortunately saw this coming
In 1997, Paul Rosenberg, the attorney of an aspiring rapper from Detroit calling himself Eminem, was walking along 6th Avenue in the West Village with ten copies of an independent 12-inch vinyl single titled "Just Don't Give a Fuck." His mission was simple: try to persuade a record store called Fat Beats to stock it. He'd heard the store mentioned on Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito's WKCR college-radio show, and thought it crucial to launching the career of an underground rap artist.

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Fat Beats Will Host One Last Week of Performances From Just Blaze, DJ Premier, A-Trak, and More Before Closing on Saturday

The much adored, lightly patronized NYC rap mecca that is Fat Beats will close on Saturday, following the lead of HMV, Tower, the Virgin Megastore, and pretty much every other non-iTunes record shop on the planet. "The closing of Fat Beats is just like one of my friends passing away," said DJ Premier, when the store announced its demise a couple weeks back. Now Preme, Just Blaze, Rass Kass, A-Trak, Pete Rock, and a host of other DJs will help say goodbye, stopping in for nightly in-stores before the shop shutters for good on at 9pm on Saturday. (Their L.A. branch will stay open through September 18.) It was a good run, and they made the most of what they had this decade (their #1 seller at this time last year was a Slaughterhouse record, so when you mourn the demise of bricks and mortar retail, make sure to pour one out for the industry behind the fall, too). Artifacts and Immortal Technique are there tonight, but most of the heavy hitters will come Saturday:

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NYC Record Store/Hip-Hop Mecca Fat Beats Is Closing

"The slogan is it's the 'Last Stop for Hip Hop," a Fat Beats employee told us last year. "But now it literally is. All the other ones closed down." From XXL now comes word that Fat Beats itself will do the same, shuttering both its New York and L.A. locations. (They'll continue on at fatbeats.com and mull their "options for alternate retail locations in the future.") A great many tributes (and tribute shows, evidently) will inevitably follow, but it's nonetheless a tremendous loss for local hip-hop culture. "The closing of Fat Beats is just like one of my friends passing away," DJ Premier says, and that of course only makes you feel worse. Full release below:

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The Top 10 Records Sold This Month at Fat Beats on Sixth Avenue

In 2009, the traditional practice of exchanging physical copies of records for money is a trade that might best be called quixotic. But New Yorkers are stubborn people, and the record store is not dead. Below, the top ten records that sold in the last week at a store near you.

Fat Beats photo via tinatinatina's photostream
Fat Beats proclaims itself "The Mecca of NYC Hip Hop"--"That's all I can say," says 26-year-old employee J57, whose real name is James Hines (the "57" refers to the 57 varieties of Hines Ketchup). "The slogan is it's the 'Last Stop for Hip Hop'," he says. "But now it literally is. All the other ones closed down." The store, opened in 1994, is managed by DJ Eclipse (watch him give a tour of Fat Beats here). Located on the second floor of 406 6th Ave, the store has vinyl-covered walls and promotes a strictly hip-hop inventory. The name also doubles as an iconic label. Other than Eclipse, the staff is made up entirely of the eight-piece hip-hop group Brown Bag All Stars who spend their hours at the store trading off rhymes (they shot their new debut video in the store). Fat Beats has a rich history, including in-store appearances from Eminem in 1998 and Common in 1999. J57 says the store's most memorable recent in-store was a spoken word appearance from KRS-1. "It was definitely a fire zone problem," he says. "The place was so packed you couldn't walk."

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