Tapes rocked 'til tapes popped. CDs scratched and skipped. Richer-sounding vinyl required constant attention or it warped like neglected children. And for all these headaches, a tangible music collection could also have your spot looking like an episode of Hoarders. Still, as these technologies went the way of the wooly mammoth, hip-hop lost something important: the music store.
Every community needs a place to gather, share information, and debate. Until the digital revolution, famed shops like Manhattan's Fat Beats, Brooklyn's Beat Street Records, L.A.'s VIP Records, and lesser-known but equally important local fixtures were musical Meccas where rap heads made weekly pilgrimages to cop new releases (when "first" actually meant something), be put up on artists, watch in-store performances, hop in freestyle ciphers, and kick it with people who shared their passion for boom-bap.
The Internet provides the simulacrum of the record shop experience with social networks, message boards, and music databases, but connecting (in the loosest sense of the word) to 100 million people in isolation via "likes," RTs, comments sections, and tag-driven links to other artist pages pales in comparison to looking someone in the eye and giving them a pound. Not to mention, it might get you catfished.