Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I have some very sad news. Many of you may already know it. On Thursday, it became publicly known that Stacks Vinyl, the vinyl authority, will be closing. After a severe slump that began last year, Stacks' owner Isaiah Dacio aka DJ Icy Ice officially announced the store's demise.
Stacks opened seven years ago, and has been a solid home base for many DJs, record collectors, and hip hop heads in the Los Angeles area (and in San Diego for a while). The Cerritos location is still open for now (and I think the Ontario location will remain open under different ownership), and has some hot sales in order to rid of merch and to subsequently hook you up. The store is also online and you could still order your gear and music from there.
The closing of the store is a huge and sad loss. Stacks Vinyl affirms the thickness and vitality of the hip hop scene in the Los Angeles area, especially among Fil Am youth. Ice brought hip hop from innocent fun to a serious, committed business, an ambition that many hip hoppers couldn't manifest. The LA Weekly article "The Fil Am Invasion" which I wrote about below could not come at a more ironic moment. (BTW, here is Rhett's response to the article. See the Aug. 24th entry). As much as Stacks affirmed the strength of the Fil Am hip hop scene in Socal, it also continued to create a community and supported the development of the scene by providing a source of music and fashion, and also a performance venue for artists and DJs. Where else in Socal can Fil Am youth turn to to find the center of their hip hop scene? The closing is sad news indeed. (Thanks Mark Pulido and Isaiah for sharing your stories).
The reason for the closing? Plain and simple: Serato and digital music. Serato is becoming more and more popular, and there simply isn't any reason for younger DJs to collect vinyl. Stacks' staple consumer base is men in their mid 30s to 40s who grew up on 80s and early 90s hip hop. The only reason young people would collect vinyl would be to appreciate the record's visual aesthetic and its attached nostalgia. But in all honesty, who wants to lug around a dozen crates to a party when you got your laptop and Lacie harddrive? It just makes more sense to use Serato for many young people, and it's at the expense of the ways of old. And unfortunately (like whats happening with Blockbuster and Tower Records), the material, physical forms of vinyl (and also DVDs and CDs) are becoming more and more obsolete. Digital is the choice of media--download it, and its yours . Coupled with the unstoppable machine of the music industry, the old school ways have no chance. Nas' declaration "hip hop is dead" which I wrote about below may ring true for vinyl lovers. And along with the death of the artform is the death of businesses that rely on the materiality of the artform.
It's a huge loss that vinyl be reduced to a collector's item and no longer a functioning part of music culture. With the loss of the record is the great vinyl cover art, that tells as much of the artists' story as the music itself. (In fact, a guy was in Stacks yesterday just buying record album covers to display on his wall). So long visual aesthetic!
Of course, jazz musicians loathed the advancement of the record player and radio, which diminished the role of live music. Where live music used to be the source of all music, live music performances today is just seen as a "hip," cool, and different thing to experience at an open mic night or during a live jazz night at a bar. Just as digital technology is killing vinyl culture, radio and vinyl technology brought the demise of musicians (damn you Freestyle keyboard sound!). See Robin Kelley's article in Three Strikes for the story of how musicians lost their livelihood because of changes with the film industry--live musicians used play the score for silent films, and with the advent of "talking pictures," they lost their jobs. Technology is good for many (i.e. it democratizes and accesses music to the masses), but bad for some (i.e. the cultural creators of music).
So, it has been great Mr. Mobile DJ. We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can always treasure the moments and try our best to share history with the new generations. Hopefully this history will continue to be appreciated and add to the vitality of the emerging scenes. As jazz has given hip hop fresh and new ideas (by looking back at old forms), hopefully vinyl and other dying forms can somehow add to emerging cultural production. How? Good question.
I'm an advocate for progressing art forms: experimenting with sounds, moves, colors, and rhythm. I know technology plays a huge role in innovating the way art is created (i.e. the sample is a foundation of hip hop music). But how can technology also stifle art? How can it choke already existing modes of creativity?