*Photography by Jeff Stashbox & Jourdan Ash*
Samples are my favorite part of music. When I listen to a song, I listen to the beat first. I replay a track probably three times before I even listen to the lyrics. I am obsessed with who sampled what and from whom. So when I got a record player as a graduation gift, I knew it was time to add to my budding record collection! The only records I had were MF DOOM and Madlib’s Madvilliany and a few from different Motown artists.
After using my good friends, Google and Yelp, I made a list of the “best” record stores in the city and decided to check them out for myself. For all my producers, music lovers, and crate diggers, checkout what some of the record stores in NYC had to offer and some tips below!
Rough Trade: N 9th St between Wythe & Kent Ave.
If you ask someone where to get records in New York, 9 times out of 10 they’ll tell you to go to Rough Trade. Located in Hipster Haven (Williamsburg), Rough Trade is one of the biggest and most popular music stores out today. The store literally has every new, old, and classic album, vinyl, or cassette that you never knew you needed. Upon arrival, Rough Trade can be a bit overwhelming.
Tip #1: Get there early so you can search through the records without it being too crowded!
From D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s Black Messiah to Al Green’s Greatest Hits, I was in record heaven.
Unfortunately, my pockets weren’t. Though Rough Trade’s selection was awesome and featured a variety of genres, I noticed that records were $2 to $4 more expensive than what I’d seen at other stores. J.Dilla’s Donuts was $19.99 while I picked it up at another shop for $16.99.
Their “Used Vinyls” left a lot more to be desired, especially for R&B and Hip-Hop.
Would I recommend Rough Trade? For the latest albums, yes. But if you’re looking for a popular vinyl, I’d suggest looking around first to save some money!
Notable Mention – Earwax Records: Also located in Williamsburg, Earwax was cheaper than Rough Trade and also had a huge rock selection!
Turntable Lab: E 7th and 1st Ave
Turntable Lab was easily one of my favorite spots of the day! Located in the LES, Turntable Lab is a small store full of gems. If you’re into production or just a musical nerd, this is your store. Turntable Lab is very organized and carries everything from headphones to beat machines and turntables. The store has a huge Hip-Hop and R&B selection. It even carried a few A Tribe Called Quest records which I surprisingly didn’t find much of at other stores.
The best part of Turntable Lab was its listening station. When I stepped into the booth, I felt like a real DJ! With their moderate prices, knowledgeable staff, and great vibe, I’ll definitely be returning to Turntable Lab.
Tip #2: Always listen to the records before buying! Many record stores have a strict “No Return” policy, so take full advantage of the listening station! Don’t be afraid to ask if you can listen to it first!
A-1 Records: E 6th St between Ave A & 1st
If you’re looking for classic hip-hop vinyl, A-1 Records is your go to. A-1 has a massive selection of classic hip-hop vinyls. I’m talking late 80’s and early 90’s gems, your favorite rapper’s first singles, and just straight classics.
Now, this store isn’t as organized as others which might turn some off. But good things come to those who look, right? If you’re on a budget, no worries. Majority of the records at A-1 cost between $8 to $16. Special edition vinyl will cost you a bit more.
I managed to find a few records from the fine ass artist formally known as Common Sense, including my favorite song “I Used To Love H.E.R”. I also found tons of Gang Starr records for $15, which is very rare! I’d recommend A-1 Records to any hip-hop head with a lot of patience!
Tip #3: Take Your Ass to the Dollar Bin! A lot of gems are hidden in a record store’s dollar/sale bin. You might even stumble upon a new artist or genre to explore.
Other Music: E 4th Astor Place
Other Music was my last stop of the day, but it definitely made a lasting impression. As I searched through the store, I noticed brief descriptions written about the artist on majority of the records and albums which was an awesome personal touch.
Though I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for (Ego Death and To Pimp A Butterfly), I had a successful day of crate digging. I was able to weed out the good record stores from the overhyped ones. I ended up buying one of my favorite albums, the Detroit classic J. Dilla’s Donuts.
Where are some of your favorite record shops? Let me know in the comment section!