To be perfectly honest, when I finally found BBQ Records after having driven past it 2-3 times, situated above a Matsuya Gyudon beef-bowl fast-food chain, in what looked like a tiny little 2nd-floor apartment, I pretty much lost all hope that I might have been stumbling upon a Tokyo diamond in the rough. But you never know, and I was keen to check it off the list of shops I’ve visited, and so I parked the bike and headed up those sorta sad and all-too-familiar non-descript apartment stairs. I followed the signs, rounded the corner, and came upon a surprisingly inviting door, a cute logo, and a cleverly back-lit sign. Hmmm…just maybe there was still hope.
And oh there was, cuz when I opened the door, I walked into what is probably one of the most well-organized, well-compartmentalized, most efficiently used DIY spaces I’ve ever seen. Right at the door was a little capsule coffee maker that, for the sake of this story, I grabbed a cup from, and ventured into the very neatly-kept and well-detailed BBQ Records. The first thing I immediately appreciated was carpentry – it would appear that whoever physically put the place together wanted something refined but practical, precise but hand-made too, and it probably took meticulous planning and a very pragmatic and yet imaginative mind to customize such an interesting layout and open feel for such a small space, with delightful details in every corner, from just well-done recessed fixtures, peg-board displays, to an elegantly manicured bonsai-ish succulent garden in the bay window, packed with inventory, but open and airy, a tiny space but balanced to perfection. To be honest, despite its size, it was one of the most welcoming record stores I’ve ever visited in Tokyo. It felt like what you’d want if you built a record store in your own home.
And behind the counter was the 8-year-long proprietor of BBQ Records, friendly Atushi (I’d-find-out-later-my-same-age), owner of the imagination that designed this lovely space. He smiled and welcomed me, and sat behind the counter playing a great selection of music that included Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma which I was really digging (I’ll add it to the TRS Discogs) while I shopped. The record shop carried all genres of music but I’d say was 80% old-school hip-hop, R&B, and Soul. When I noticed on an original goods branded coffee mug that the “BBQ” in “BBQ Records” actually stood for “Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens” I started to gather the general concept of the shop. I spotted a Pop Rock doll of Jay Master Jay, of Run DMC (who I grew up on and still adore), then I spotted what looked like full a set of “Yo MTV Raps” playing cards, the top car showing Fab 5 Freddy which was taking me back. There were Tribe, De La Soul, and Digable Planet Records on the wall, heaps more great records (and great-priced records) in the bins (I couldn’t resist a little bit of a rough copy of “Straight Outta Compton” – for ¥2000 i,t was a steal!) I was getting hit with a wave of nostalgia, remembering growing up on all this great music and lamenting a little bit that I haven’t really kept up with the genre in recent years. I feel there is simply too much for me to know.
I was really keen to fire up a conversation about Atsushi, and when Daisue and Mao from the previous post popped in while I was there, we all began chatting about New York, and Flying Lotus, and the slight obscurity and interestingness of Toshimaen, the little famous satellite neighborhood of Tokyo where BBQ is technically situated (in “The Goldilocks Zone” as I keep calling it). Eventually, after a nice 4-way chat, and a brief interlude photographing Daisuke and Mao back out on the street, I came back up to BBQ, and Atsushi and I had a loooong, good-hearted conversation about old-school hip-hop. I told him that basically my first touch with hip-hop was hooking up with this neighborhood freestyle bike gang, who hung out all weekend long in the local school parking lot or at the neighborhood adjacent mall, doing bike tricks, and listening to all the rap artists of the mid-late 80’s to the mid-early 90’s on blaring boomboxes, breakdancing too, on cardboard patches they’d drag to and fro, and wishing so bad to break into their world, and then getting by chutzpah to join them only to be initially laughed out of their circle with my unceremoniously-procured-from-Toy-R-Us white splatter-paint “Big Boss” freestyle bike, which would become an instant moniker for myself that I maintain with a certain group of friends to this day (I admit that I do proudly love answering their calls some 30+ years later and hearing them on the other line jovially say “BIG BOSS!”)
Atsushi shared a somewhat similar story of not quite fitting in with the soccer or baseball teams as a young Japanese teenager and discovering breakdancing and hip-hop and finding (and helping to create) a world of friends where he could celebrate his passions. Dance was his entry point, which actually parallels my own son’s who I’m just THRILLED is all about hip-hop, popping and breaking (and he’s damn good), and old school hip-hop. My Beasties collection is pretty complete, but my overall hip-hop collection is pretty non-existent, however, I’m looking forward to re-discovering much of it with my son, all the killer old-school hip-hop that I grew up with (peppered with some gratuitous gangsta rap!)
BBQ was a great stop and is a great shop, and Atsushi and I laughed so hard and had a few sentimental moments, so there you go, #theworldgetssmallerthroughmusic, yet again.
Last thing to mention, the reason the N.W.A. record I scored was so cheap, was cuz Atsushi hooked me up with a special price after our long chat (that’s one of the bonuses of getting to know your local record dealer). He also actually talked me OUT of a scratched-up ¥400 copy of Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” 12”. But that’s about my record budget for this weekend, AND I told him I’d bring him a little gift for his generosity (read: some of @miro45groove’s “Blue Identity”), so maybe a quick dash over there today is in order.
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Label: Warp Records – WARPLP195
Format: 2 x Vinyl, LP, Album, Gatefold
Country: UK & US
Released: May 3, 2010
Style: Downtempo, IDM, Future Jazz, Trip Hop, Experimental, Abstract
N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
Label: Ruthless Records – BRLP 534, Priority Records – BRLP 534, 4th & Broadway – BRLP 534
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Genre: Hip Hop
Style: Gangsta, Hardcore Hip-Hop
RUN DMC – Walk This Way
Label: Profile Records – PRO-7112
Format: Vinyl, 12″, 33 ⅓ RPM, Stereo
Genre: Hip Hop
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