With the start of March, I’m still trying to get a handle on some new routines and find time to dedicate to digging, mixtapes and beats. Definitely working toward some bigger, conceptual mix projects in the coming month or two, but here’s a little something for the headphones – the latest Occasional Mix, which is mostly an excuse to play newish hip-hop and give myself something to listen to when riding the train to work. Hope there’s something on here you haven’t heard before.
“Digging Diaries” will be a new mixtape series from me for 2013, chronicling recent digs and travels I might take throughout the year. I went to Seattle and Portland over the winter holidays, and ended up shipping back a thick stack of vinyl to NYC. This mix is composed of just a few of those records, eclectic and vibey, trying to play some stuff you don’t normally hear, along with a couple classic breaks for the heads.
Download: Occasional Mix #9 (DJ Ian Head)
Another short mix of hip-hop I’m bumpin right now. Homeboy Sandman, The Physics, Clear Soul Forces, Es Nine, Marc Mac and KA.lil. Check for it.
new mixtape: fourteen45sofcrunchylovesongsin7minutes
I know posts are slow – been extra busy, plus re-formulating stuff on the music front. here’s a short freestyle mix i threw together tonight – wanted to play some 45s and just get some off-the-cuff practice in. real crunchy, but hopefully you enjoy. also available for now on my soundcloud.
There’s this short film about a guy in Pittsburgh who has amassed the largest record collection ever. He calls it “The Archive.” In the movie, he says that the Library of Congress did a study of his collection, and found that for records released between the years 1948 – 1966, only 17% of that music is available on CD.
This guy has over two-million records, so that’s a crazy number. It means 83% of the music in his collection over a span of eighteen years has mostly been forgotten in the digital age. It makes you wonder how much – or little – music from any given year may end up being “timeless,” or how long it takes for a song or album before it becomes forgotten, buried beneath hundreds and thousands of others decades later.
But for us record nerds, there’s a certain kind of excitement too. It means a lot of undiscovered treasure, treasure only available on vinyl. It’s the kind of thing that inspires me to go out next weekend and keep looking through crusty stacks of LPs for some artist or label I’ve never seen before, some obscure b-side I never knew about.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a collector – coins, toys, baseball cards, etc – but records were a way for me to move past being just another obsessive hoarder. The joy of records is playing them – not only for yourself, but especially with others.
For the past five years, I have created and distributed at least one mixtape every single month, via the internets. I did this mainly for two reasons: as a challenge to myself, to do something creative on a consistent basis; and to play all these crazy records I’d been amassing. Records that because of my eclectic taste, I might not be able to fit on one or two mixtapes. Records that you can’t really dance to, or records that I would dance to but most people probably wouldn’t. Records that had important meaning to me but might not fit within cliche definitions of “hip-hop.”
This latest tape carries that theme – I just wanted to play some of my favorite joints plus some classic breaks I don’t usually play, and intersperse a few vocal clips of people talking about why they love records. It kind of floats through various genres and hopefully is a fun sort of compilation of my continuing digging adventures. Shout out to Ani for the photo used on the cover.
When people find out I’m a DJ, they usually ask me where I spin. It’s hard to describe to them that besides an occasional afterparty or random gig, I spent most of my time making obscure mixtapes for an internet audience much bigger than most live shows I’ve played. I want to say thank you to everyone who let me play these kinds of records and bumped these “tapes” over the past five years. One of the reasons I’ve continued making these mixes has been the positive reaction to them, and I feel indebted to everyone who’s stuck around and supported my tapes from the beginning.
I also want to send a huge thank-you and shout-out to all the blogs who have plugged my tapes since 2007, especially Grandgood, CrateKings, and Pipomixes. Additionally, shouts to King Megatrip, JNOTA and ReDefinition Records, Root70Lounge, thisistomorrow, Stephanie Vaughn, DomeShots&FatLaces, TROYBlog, Kevin Nottingham, The RapUp, Heavy Soul Brutha and anyone I’ve forgotten who blogged about my tapes and got the word out.
Further thank-yous to Verb Math, Evolve-One, Brian Burk, Alex Stange, Omega Jackson, Walidah, Dahwud, Jelani, DJ Seek-Ten, DJ Center, DJ Sayeed, Bina, Gabe T, Keyel, Kinetik and Dirty Hairy for coming through with drops on these mixes. Also big shout to Amy Goodman for saying my name on a Democracy Now! show years ago – the best mixtape drop a lefty DJ could ask for.
Finally, I am not putting an end to making mixtapes or new projects – just the monthly series. There will be more tapes, more creations, more experiments. Change is good, and it’s time for something new.
– DJ Ian Head
I love underground, independent hip-hop. I don’t think it gets its proper due. There’s just something about listening to talented, hungry emcees over unpolished beats that you don’t find in much mainstream music. There’s that certain aesthetic, the DIY hustle, that shines through the music. People keep telling me I’ll grow out of it, but it hasn’t happened yet.
In high school I spent a lot of time buying used tapes at one of Portland’s classic record stores, 2nd Avenue Records. Most of the store was vinyl, but they had this old wooden cabinet in the middle of the store and you could pull out these giant, heavy drawers full of cover-less, beat-up tapes for $2 each. I loved digging through those drawers, and sometimes I’d spend my lunch money on some new music. After grabbing a tape or two, I’d occasionally wander over to the hip-hop vinyl section and peak through. But it was a pointless mission since I didn’t have a record player.
However, I was a bit of a computer nerd, and I did have a 2400 baud modem attached to my dad’s PC. Around 1995, I found myself on a “BBS” (google it) message board emailing with a young emcee and producer in Florida who was accumulating heavy amounts of obscure, independent hip-hop vinyl. He volunteered to fill up any blank tape I sent him with the best hip-hop he had, and it was too good of a deal to pass up. I’d send him two tapes at a time, and get them back a month or two later, packed full of all kinds of independent hip-hop, b-sides and remixes. Stuff from all over the country. It was an education, and I can’t thank that dude enough for being so generous. He’s now a fairly well-known producer and emcee in New York, who has worked with many of the artists he dubbed onto those tapes. When I moved to New York in 96, I started hitting Fat Beats, Footwork, and other spots, not just for the latest wax, but also some of those classic joints from those mixes. Over the years I’ve tracked many of them down – but there’s still a few that elude me.
The first mixtape I made for internet distribution in 2007 was collection of 90s independent, underground hip-hop vinyl. Honestly, I don’t have a copy of that mix anymore – I’d looked on old hard drives, CDs, everywhere – I can’t find it. So I thought I’d take it back with a similar theme, and play an hour of independent hip-hop vinyl – it’s not strictly 90s releases, but most of these joints are at least 10 years old (I can’t believe it’s 2012…). A LOT of records got left off this tape – those that made the mix are some favorites and obscurities that hopefully not everyone has heard before. I tried not to play too many records that appear on my past tapes, and I also tried to span the country geographically.
So for the backpacker, underground heads like me that hear this, hopefully you enjoy.
– DJ Ian Head Read the rest of this entry »
Download: July 2012 mixtape “Warm Weather”
I had a different idea for this one going into it, but feel pretty good about how it came out. Play it while driving to the beach and pretend it’s 1991.
Pieces of a Dream
I tossed a frisbee at the park today, and ate some fruit salad. Finally got the bike tuned up for evening rides around the borough.
But when I haven’t been eating early-morning donuts or late night vegan ice-cream, I’m still in scouring these stoop sales, flea markets and elsewhere. Here’s some more laid back selections to play with the windows open and a breeze flowing in.
– DJ Ian Head