As brick and mortar record shops continue to permanently pull down their gates during the tussle with online commerce, thinking about the ones that have already lost the battle is a history lesson in itself. As a native New Yorker and avid hip-hop record and memorabilia collector, most of my greatest memories, purchases, and observations went down live, in the flesh, and well over a decade ago (in many cases, two decades ago).
Oftentimes, shops in the outer boroughs and surrounding counties of New York City were the lone artery bringing music to a neighborhood.
Urban decay, the ensuing gentrification, the Internet, and the simple fact that running a niche-based hip-hop shop is truly a labor of love rather than something one did to pay the bills all played a part in closing the doors of places that were more than just somewhere to spend your cash; These were real life meeting grounds for like-minded people, from neighborhood superstars to the tourist stumbling in looking for the random record, magazine, DJ needle, obscure movie, sneaker, or t-shirt. Oftentimes, shops in the outer boroughs and surrounding counties of New York City were the lone artery bringing music to a neighborhood. Those who couldn’t make the hour (or more) long trek into the city had to rely on getting to their local mom and pop shop on release dates. The record store clerks knew you by name, knew where and how to get whatever you were looking for, and would even sell your demo tapes for you on consignment, giving you something to brag to your friends about. On the flip, hitting some of NYC’s finest boutique and niche hip-hop record shops always offered an experience or goods you could never, ever secure elsewhere.
Growing up in both New York City and one of its surrounding counties in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant I was fortunate enough to shop at some of NYC’s finest flagship niche shops and stumble into obscure places of business whose notoriety now only exists to people who lived within two miles of them. (Some of these places even had the all-knowing Google stumped.) From suburban shops in Westchester and Long Island to cramped, high rent sweatboxes in the East and West Village (with one detour to the West Coast), I present my 10 favorite defunct hip-hop shops of all time.