Adrian Younge’s Retro Futurism

Adrian Younge’s | In episode 85 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with a visionary multidisciplinary artist on his latest project The American Negro

The soundtrack of Adrian Younge’s mind includes Ennio Morricone, blaxploitation movies, Jay Z, Kendrick and Wu Tang recorded in his studio on analog where he plays all the instruments. Also a filmmaker, it all comes together in The American Negro, the multi-media project he describes as James Baldwin hooked up with Marvin Gaye produced by David Axelrod. We discuss the aforementioned, the sorry state of pop and why he thinks the past is a blast.

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Q&A

 

Adrian Younge — Multi-Media

 

David: [00:00:00] 

Polymath is a word easily thrown around these days to describe what used to be called a Jack of all trades, master of none. Well in Adrian Younge’s case, we have an exception to that rule. Younge, my guest today, has a law degree, been a producer for music greats, ranging from Jay Z to Kendrick Lamar to Wu-Tang Clan. He’s a collaborator with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and a composer for television shows such as Marvel’s Luke Cage. He’s co-owner of the Jazz is Dead record label, as well as the Linear Labs Analog Studio, and the owner of the bespoke record store, The Artform Studio. What brings him to our attention today is all of those things, plus his latest undertaking, a new mixed media project, including the album, The American Negro, the short film, TAN, and the podcast, Invisible Blackness, that collectively breaks down the evolution of racism in America. Younge describes the project as James Baldwin hooked up with Marvin Gaye produced by David Axelrod, quite a triumvirate. Welcome, Adrian Younge.

 

Adrian: [00:01:15] 

Thank you, man. It’s good to be here.

 

David: [00:01:18] 

That trio that you mentioned, they’re really all you, aren’t they? There’s a-

 

Adrian: [00:01:22] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:01:23] 

You did everything on the album, um-

 

Adrian: [00:01:25] 

Yeah. 

 

David: [00:01:26] 

Wrote, edited, composed. As well as the film, you directed.

 

Adrian: [00:01:30] 

Yeah. Yes.

 

David: [00:01:31] 

Do you embody those three people, or is there something more to it?

 

Adrian: [00:01:36] 

To me, with this whole project, The American Negro LP is the nucleus and the film is a companion piece. The film, which is TAN. And then the podcast, Invisible Blackness, these are all companion pieces, but they all really are just part of the world that I created to deliver a message. And that message was really an anti-bigotry, anti-racism message for the world, you know? So that’s what this is all really about.

 

David: [00:02:12] 

And the film, to me, is the least conventional of the three pieces that I mentioned earlier because it doesn’t really fit any kind of genre, I see it as more of an art film, something you might see in a museum or an art gallery that understands these issues.

 

Adrian: [00:02:34] 

Yes, absolutely. The film really depicts the nuances of racism, and it also depicts the over determinant stereotypes that we all deal with, you know? I wanted to create characters that felt real. I wanted to create characters that people could identify with, characters that people could hate. I wanted to do it in a way where I respected the intelligence of the viewer, I didn’t want to spoonfeed anything. So that’s basically what the film is. And you’re right, it’s like an art house type film,. But that’s just what I’m into. I love ill films, I love telling stories from a different perspective.

 

David: [00:03:28] 

it’s in black and white. The angles are very tight and stark, it’s very atmospheric.

 

Adrian: [00:03:35] 

Yes.

 

David: [00:03:36] 

Was it also shot in analog? I know you’re a fan of analog recording, using tape and real instruments.

 

Adrian: [00:03:45] 

Actually the film was shot on my RED cameras, I’m an analog dude to the fullest, but when it comes to shooting film, I actually like how digital film looks. I don’t like how digital recording sounds, that’s why I don’t record digitally, but I love how digital film looks. You know, so I mean, you know, I- I’m into it.

 

David: [00:04:09] 

Interesting. Maybe that’s because that’s not your primary medium, I assume? Because if you talk to filmmakers, they’ll tell you how great film is and they still love to shoot film and prefer to shoot film.

 

Adrian: [00:04:21] 

Well, no, this is the thing… I’ve shot film before and I love film. I actually prefer film over digital. Film is hands down better than digital, but the issue is whether digital is good enough for me to happy with it. So going to me as a musician, because of the kind of music I make, I can’t record, with a laptop because I continue the conversations that were started from a golden era- from my golden period of recording, which is ’68 to ’73. That’s my golden era. So that means I play live instruments, that means I bring in live orchestra. There’s not any fake emulations for certain plugins or anything, it’s the purest kind of recording and execution as you can have. Now, when we’re going into filmmaking, when we did Black Dynamite, 2009, that was shot on film. I edited that film, I did the score. And because of what that film was, it had to be shot on film. Now 2009 is, what, twelve years ago. There’s been so many advancements in filmmaking from a digital perspective that I’m like, “Yo, I actually like it.” I’m always honest with myself with it, you know? But if I had the budget to shoot film, I’d always just go film anyway. But that being said, I actually really do like digital.

 

David: [00:05:59] 

Was there- Something happened to you personally that made you want to take this project on, aside from, everything else that’s sort of around us constantly? You could have made this film, the issues, have been around for a while, there’s nothing really new addressed here. These are some subjects that’s old and needs to be talked about constantly. But was there some impetus for you to do it now?

 

Adrian: [00:06:27] 

Well what’s interesting is that this entire world that I created started before George Floyd happened. So history repeats itself, history is a cyclical process, and when it comes to racism, the better educated you are about your actions, the less racism we have in the world. At least that’s my theory, right? So one day, my daughter when she was like twelve-years-old, she’s sixteen now, but when she was twelve, She asked me some questions regarding blaxploitation films, and I was just breaking down… the evolution of blaxploitation and what it meant to black America, from the NAACP to, younger black artists. And she said, “Daddy, why do know so much about this kind of stuff?” And I never thought about it like that. But then I just realized all the research that I’ve done, just one black history and how it affects us now. Then on my travels, I realized how much people just don’t know about the connection, the machinations that were set in place from the days of slavery to now that actually continue to ensnare us in subjugated positions. So I’m realizing all these things, I’m realizing all of this is not common knowledge and this is what served as an impetus for me to create this world. That’s why I did the album, that’s why did the podcast, and I wanted to also do the film because I wanted to really disseminate the message as far and wide as possible.

 

David: [00:08:12] 

And who do you imagine as your audience? Your ideal person for this?

 

Adrian: [00:08:17] 

I look at my audience as people just like me, and I’ll better explain that. As a creative person, I always create art for the audience in my head. And once I stop creating for that audience and start appeasing other people, I start losing that audience in my head. And when I come back to try to make something for this audience in my head, they’re nowhere to be found and I’m searching for myself. So that is just my perspective in art. So I always say that I create for a fake world I’ve created inside of my head.

 

David: [00:08:58] 

[laughs] That’s great.

 

Adrian: [00:08:58] 

And I just hope other people dig it, you know? But that’s my perspective on everything. I never want to lose myself. So my audience, I guess, are people that like the same kind of things I like.

 

David: [00:09:09] 

Yeah. That’s great. But are they the ones that need to hear this the hard part is getting the people who don’t know? Trying to get their attention, right?

 

Adrian: [00:09:21] 

Right. But- but with these messages, you know, it’s Really, an unapologetic critique on the malevolent psychology that plagues people of color, but also just plagues humanity. So the black person needs to hear it just as much as the white person, just as much as the Asian person, because racism is on both sides and with racism, you could commit a racist act unintentionally. So the example I always love to use is that if you watch old Police Academy films and you’ll see the Japanese photographer with his buckteeth, taking pictures. You know, when we watch that, we may not have thought that was racist because it’s just connected to the Looney Tunes cartoons that we grew up watching as a kid. But as you become more civilized, as you become more aware, in law there’s something called the Know or Should’ve Known Standard. And you’re culpable if you knew or should have known. The mouse behind your act. So I say this all to say that... the righteous black conscious person needs to hear it just as much as the white person that has no empathy for this issue. Because it’s a human issue, and it’s about us coming together just to really respect each other and ensure that we are all living with equality, you know what I’m saying? So it’s on both sides. Children too, you know?

 

David: [00:11:12] 

Yeah. Yeah, depends how they’re raised, right? Where they go to school.

 

Adrian: [00:11:15] 

Right. Exactly.

 

David: [00:11:15] 

What’s going on in the schoolyard at different moments. You called it The American Negro, which begs the question, negro, you know, which is an antiquated, scorned term that people don’t use at all anymore for the most part, right? So what is that represent to you and why did you choose that?

 

Adrian: [00:11:38] 

So I chose the term The American Negro, because it just falls within the euphemisms and or the pejoratives of choice that we had to choose from. So there was a time when negro was a very respected term for us, you know, because the opposite was being called n—r or coon or spick, you know? So there was also us being called colored, you know? It’s like, “Oh wow, well thank you for calling me negro or colored.” But if you study the- the etiology of the black consciousness, it got to a point where we said we’re black, and we said we’re black and we’re proud, you know? And there was this new perspective on what it means to be called African American, because not all of us came directly to America from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. So I say this all to say, when you see and or hear the term negro, it stigmatizes you because, like you said, it’s an archaic term,  it’s a term you just don’t really hear anymore. And in putting that in my title, it should have people wondering why. And when they listen to the album, they get their answers.

 

David: [00:13:08] 

So what is the preferred term these days? That itself is- is a subject of discussion quite a bit, right?

 

Adrian: [00:13:14] 

Yeah. Well-

 

David: [00:13:16] 

What’s it’s- Yes?

 

Adrian: [00:13:16] 

The preferred term, I always say it’s black, right? That’s what I say is the preferred term. Some people may say it’s African American, but all of these terms came from somewhere that’s not the best place. So it’s kind of hard to have a complete consensus, but to me, for the most part, it’s black, and this is why. When we were called African American, there was an issue regarding the emigration of other blacks to America from the Caribbean and all these other former, slave nations. That means that they didn’t come directly from Africa on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, therefore should they be deemed as being African Americans? Cause the term African American was created for people that are the ancestors of those that came as captives on the slave ships. Now also we’re looking at a term like black, you know, when you look at the old Webster’s dictionary, black is something that is dark, evil, you see the words sullen countenance, right? So cloudy and- and- and just malevolent. But then you see the word white and it’s pure and innocent, holy. So all of these terms have some sort of pejorative nature attached to them, but we are the only people that were brought to America that were totally cut off from our heritage. We were not allowed to come with our own language. So when you’re looking at this bucket of terms, the issue is, “Well which one are you going to pick?” And when you think of blackness, you think about the change that happened in the late ’60s and the- and the early ’70s where our tone was more brazen and rebellious. Our term in saying, “I am black and I’m proud.” Was something that really embodied the evolution of image versus identity, an evolution that got us to the point where the term black really embodied a power that was always questioned. So for me, black is the pejorative of choice. Yeah.

 

David: [00:16:10] 

So it’s the- it’s the best of a bunch of bad options?

 

Adrian: [00:16:12] 

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

 

David: [00:16:14] 

Okay. Yeah, I mean, it would be a world where we don’t recognize those differences, but obviously it’s helpful for people even within the black community, where the N-word is used as a way of community.

 

Adrian: [00:16:27] 

Right.

 

David: [00:16:27] 

It’s sort of like an inclusive thing. This is us, we can use this word, other people can’t. We know what it means.

 

Adrian: [00:16:33] 

Yeah. Well something that’s interesting about the N-word, right? To me, there’s this story in the use of it. Because we could go on for days about whether people should use the term or not. But you cannot argue against the fact that it has the connotation of a word within the black community has morphed into a term of endearment, right? The issue is whether it should continue to be that or not. And it’s something that is very much up for debate. So when we’re thinking about the concept of victim-kinship, you know, you go back to the death march when slaves were- or the enslaved was walking from the interior to the coast, and they see these big slave ships for the first time, and they’re being forced into these, into these slave ships. And even though they may have been rival tribes and or enemies in Africa, once they got on there, they realized they were all in the same position, and this is when we all started calling each other brother, started calling each other sister. And it’s something that has been a perennial circumstance, you know? It’s something that when I’m walking down the street and I see a black dude, I always gotta kind of say, “What’s up?” And if I don’t say what’s up to him it’s like, “Is he weird?” You know what I’m saying? Like that’s what it is, that where this kind of stuff all- all really emanates from. So I- I say this all to say that with the euphemisms, what we’ve all had to deal with, we are now at a point where the balance is starting to change even more. Because ultimately, we’re all human, and race is really a social construct, it’s really a fallacy. We’re all really just human. And by empowering our side of humanity, it really empowers us all, cause it’s about empathy and understanding.

 

David: [00:18:52] 

Let’s talk a little bit also about your musical evolution, because I have a feeling it also parallels to some extent your consciousness, evolution at the same time. You started out, from what I understand, as a lawyer. I mean, I’m sure you started out much- I don’t know, as a kid, what? Were you very studious and, uh, reading law books? I know your father was a lawyer as well?

 

Adrian: [00:19:17] 

So- for me, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. But I knew that it’d be great to also have an education because the worst thing I could do was be a lawyer. So I’ve always wanted to create my own empire. And understanding the law puts me in the best position to do that, at least that was always my perspective. So… I… got my education in order to really self invest into who I wanted to be. Because my primary objective was always to be creating music, and actually creating films as well, but music number one. So now when I’m doing negotiations and or deals or whatever, I can just go through my own contracts, you know? It gave me a confidence that most other artists don’t necessarily have in their deals. 

 

David: [00:20:29] 

Truly. Yeah.

 

Adrian: [00:20:29] 

So- so I mean, that’s really why I did it. I was never really forced to.

 

David: [00:20:34] 

It’s hard to find a lawyer you can trust, right?

 

Adrian: [00:20:37] 

[laughs] Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

 

David: [00:20:37] 

There you go. You got to start there, become your own. Yeah, make your own and save a lot of money at the same time.

 

Adrian: [00:20:45]

Yeah, exactly.

 

David: [00:20:46] 

It’s very practical.

 

Adrian: [00:20:46] 

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

David: [00:20:47] 

So with regard to the music, what are your early memories, in terms of feeling that there was something special here for you that you wanted to connect with and make, in fact?

 

Adrian: [00:21:00] 

I was always just a big part of the hip hop culture. Hip hop has been a huge part of my life ever since I was in kindergarten. So I always wanted to create music that… was just part of the culture. When I started creating music, I remember I was eighteen and I had for Christmas, my parents bought me an MPC2000 sampler and a little eight-track recorder. And I was sampling all these records, and in a short time I realized that the records I was sampling inspired me more than the derivative music I was making. And then I said, “Oh damn, I want to be like the people on the records. I want to learn how to play instruments so I can make music like them, but I also have to learn how to record like them because I love that analog sound.” So that’s what really got me onto my journey. And then in doing that, in going through all these records, I ran into Ennio Morricone’s discography. And then at that time, I realized how much I really wanted to score for film and just really be immersed into film. So around that time, I just dedicated myself to music. I wasn’t sampling or anything. It was just live instrumentation and learning more and more about analog gear. At the same time, I was shooting like little mini-documentaries and all that stuff, and teaching myself how to edit because I said, “If I put myself in the position to exceed expectations when opportunities arise, I have a better chance of becoming who I want to be.” So fast forward to 2009, uh – I mean, I’m sorry – 2007, I get this opportunity to be part of a film called Black Dynamite. Scott Sanders, the director of that, was one of my really close friends, and his close friend was Michael Jai White who had started to write a script for it. So when we all got together, I said, “Hey, why don’t we shoot a fake trailer for it and see if we can get financing.” We did that, and we got financing immediately. And then because I was already doing this analog music, because I had spent time doing so much editing, they said, “Hey, you wanna just do the music and edit that film?” And I said, “Hell yeah, I would love that.”

 

David: [00:23:27] 

Yeah.

 

Adrian: [00:23:27] 

So the movie came out in 2009, and that’s what really put me on the map. And then I guess the rest is history, you know?

 

David: [00:23:41] 

Are you a fan of blaxploitation movies? Cause that’s also become a subject of dispute these days. pro and con.

 

Adrian: [00:23:48] 

Yeah. Well I mean, blaxploitation movies have always been a subject of- of dispute, you know? And I’ve always been a fan of the movies, because I’m such a fan of black culture, right? And- and even beyond that, I’m just such a fan of history. So this is the first time that blacks are on the screen as heroes and leads, and… you’re seeing a side of black America that we’ve never ever seen before. So before blaxploitation films, when you would see any black American, they’re always performing under the guise of these overdeterminant stereotypes whereby they’re always happy, or they’re juvenile, child-like, and-or they’re serving a white master in some capacity, whether they’re a butler, whether they’re a- a maid, or just some form of domestic. And even in being some form of domestic, you’ll have the mammies, where they take care of the white children but like their devotion to the white family is in such a way that there is a lack of awareness for their own personal families, or their lives, you know? So blaxploitation film gave a brand new optic into what it means to be black in America. Now people oppose that, but it’s mostly the older generations that opposed it. The older generations that were okay with Amos and Andy, you know? The older generations that were okay in us having these subjugated positions as long as we weren’t pimps or hustlers, you know? So there has always been this debate, but in this debate the one component that I feel is always missing is the concept of social commentary. These films deployed a brand new vantage point into social commentary in black America, in the ghetto. And even though we’re dealing with pimps, hustlers, criminals, we’re dealing with stories that are real. We’re seeing real kinds of people. We’re seeing a public performance, a public display, a new identity of blackness, whereby we’re seeing ourselves dressed in opulence. So like there’s so much good that came from these movies, and these movies saved Hollywood in the ’70s. There’s so much good that came from these movies that, I love the genre, but a lot of the films are boring as hell and suck, to be honest with you. [laughter] So-

 

David: [00:26:59] 

But the music is good usually, at least, right?

 

Adrian: [00:27:01] 

The music is good. The music is good and the history is great, but there are some great films in there, like The Mack, you know, Black Caesar. There’s so many great films, but a lot of these films were made by amateur filmmakers because there was this rush to get these black films out, because Hollywood finally found this hidden black audience that nobody knew was there. And, uh, you know, it is what it is.

 

David: [00:27:30] 

How about the, you know, if you want to call it ‘the rush’, but certainly there’s been a more than usual release of movies made by black Americans about black America. There’s the Judas and The Black Messiah, the Fred Hampton movie, One Night in Miami. I’m just reeling off a couple that just come to mind.

 

Adrian: [00:27:50] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:27:50] 

Eddie Murphey’s Coming 2 America too, which is very different.

 

Adrian: [00:27:53] 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

David: [00:27:54] 

How do you feel about the direction of the way this is all heading?

 

Adrian: [00:28:00] 

I love where it’s all going, but it’s not going fast enough. Because our world is multicultural, our world, as far as media- media is concerned, is very bleached, because we have white executives that are at the top of all these companies, and white executives making decisions based on their intuition, and a lot of their intuition would say, “You know what? I’m not sure if we can have this black lead here, or this Asian lead here, because if this television show fails, or if this movie fails, I lose my job.” So a lot of the, this racial bias that we see in the media – yes, there’s a lot of racism – but at the same time, racism is just derivative from the institution that created this world. So if a white executive has no idea what these black people or these Asian people are talking about in this film or television show, it’s hard for them to make a decision as to whether this should be a go or not. And more times than not, they pick the white safe one. So like we need more representation behind the scenes in order to create more of a multicultural, world when it comes to media. And that’s music, that’s film, that’s everything.

 

David: [00:29:43] 

And you started, as you said earlier, working in the hip hop genre. That was what got you excited about music in the first place, you love that, you- you worked with some of the biggest names in rap, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, for example. I want to ask you later about RZA, because I saw your Crate Diggers episode which I loved by the way-

 

Adrian: [00:30:06] 

Oh, thank you.

 

David: [00:30:06] 

I thought that was really, really, interesting, uh, to hear you talk about all of that stuff. But, somewhere along the line, you decided to go in a different direction musically? You created this label, Jazz Is Dead, where you’re making, symphonic music, or kind of soundtracks, using orchestra instrumentation, in many cases, from what I heard, not re-working, I don’t know how you would describe working with these jazz musicians in a new way? Can you tell us a little about that?

 

Adrian: [00:30:39] 

Yes. Yeah, so I mean… the music that I’m creating is all the same kinds of music that’s been in my head since the start, but it’s having the ability to do what I want to. The more ability I get to do what I want to, the deeper my musical dives are. So, for example, this Linear Lab Studio that I’m in right now, I’ve only been here for, I think, like four or five years. And this facility is big enough to allow me to record a thirty piece orchestra onto tape. Before that, I didn’t have access to that. And also before that, I didn’t know how to even write for an orchestra. So I had to actually read books and learn how to actually do that, you know? Cause I never went to music school. So… when I did my Something About April album, or my Black Dynamite, or all that, I still wanted to have full orchestra but I just didn’t really have the means to do it. Now with Jazz Is Dead, this is a label that is created by my self, my partner, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Andrew Lojero, and Anna Block, and especially for me and Ali, you know as DJs, as hip hop heads, we grew up spinning Gary Bartz, Lonnie Liston Smith, Brian Jackson, Marcos Valle, all these ill cats-

 

David: [00:32:09] 

Roy Ayers, one of my favorites.

 

Adrian: [00:32:10] 

Roy Ayers, right. Roy Ayers. But we never really would have fathomed that we’d get to the point where, not only are we recording new music with these people but we’re writing music for them, because we’re such good musicians that we could be in the same room with them and play and record live. This is stuff that you never really dream of as a sampling hip hop cat, so this is all part of our natural evolution based on all the work that we put in, in the last couple decades to become the musicians that we are. So, again, it’s only a change because of what we’re allowed to do. We would have always wanted to do this, but now we have the actual ability cause, you know, both Ali and I play so many different instruments, from drums to- to saxophone, to guitar, to pian- you know, all that stuff. So we can get in with anybody and do whatever, but you have to be able to have the ability to even have that kind of dream. And we didn’t have the ability twenty years ago to do this.

 

David: [00:33:16] 

And the dream of having a hit record?

 

Adrian: [00:33:19] 

Yeah, I mean-

 

David: [00:33:20] 

Is that still alive?

 

Adrian: [00:33:23] 

I mean, everybody would love a hit record. But for me, to be honest with you, man, like I said to you earlier, I create music for this audience in my head, and this audience in my head hates pop radio. It can’t stand pop radio.

 

David: [00:33:39] 

[laughs] Okay. You said it. [laughs]

 

Adrian: [00:33:41] 

Yeah, but at the same time, this audience in my head realizes that, at one time, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye was pop radio, you know?

 

David: [00:33:52] 

True.

 

Adrian: [00:33:53] 

Well let me rephrase, they were urban radio and they were able to cross over into pop radio. But you get my point, the standard of music is just so low today that when you see the kind of music that becomes number one, it’s jaw dropping. Because you’re like, “Yo? That’s all an audience needs?” I can’t do that. I can’t. I can’t do it. I don’t even know where to start.

 

David: [00:34:19] 

But you’re not alone, basically, right? Especially around LA, where you are, right? That’s where you live and work?

 

Adrian: [00:34:26] 

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

David: [00:34:27] 

And isn’t there a whole scene of musicians, West Coast jazz musicians? Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, people who are playing with the old and the new, mixing them all up into some contemporary sound that doesn’t fit in in the radio, per say- perhaps, but speaks to me, at least.

 

Adrian: [00:34:48] 

Hell yeah. All of us. Yeah, I mean, but you know, these are all- You’re just listing a bunch of pioneers, you know? These are all people that are blazing their own trail and doing what they want to, doing what they feel like. I mean, there’s an ill jazz scene in London also, there’s a dope jazz scene in Brazil, like all over the place. But the issue is, who do you hear about in mainstream media? A lot of these cats don’t really get the chance to do that, but… our legacy is a lot more valuable than those who are making music for an audience outside of their head. And that’s a perspective that we live with.

 

David: [00:35:34] 

And it probably helps to be in that community to know that other people are thinking along the same lines as you, and you’re not completely out on a limb there, like, “What am I doing? Does anybody know? Is anyone listening?”

 

Adrian: [00:35:48] 

You know what? Even if they weren’t around, as an artist, your job is to do what you think is dope. As a real artist. I don’t know anybody who does what I do, and I’m not saying that because I think I’m the best, it’s just that I don’t know anybody that creates albums where, it must be all analog and they must play ninety percent of the instruments to a hundred of the instruments, and they must create something that sounds like it’s between ’68 to ’73 for today, you know? Like that’s weird. That makes no sense to people. But for me, it makes me feel good because this is the music I love. I always tell people that new music to me are old records I’ve never heard before, because I love how old records make me feel. You know what I’m saying? So it’s what it is, you know?

 

David: [00:36:39] 

In that episode of Crate Diggers I referred to earlier, which is a show where they have, you know, music lovers, vinyl lovers, going- digging through the crates as, uh, we all used to do once upon a time. And even though you put down those fifty cent records that one might find in the bin, I really found some great ones over the years in that.

 

Adrian: [00:37:00] 

[laughs] Oh yeah.

 

David: [00:37:00] 

But today, no, nothing is fifty cents anymore.

 

Adrian: [00:37:05] 

Absolutely.

 

David: [00:37:05] 

This was back then. So when did you start collecting records and why did you feel it necessary to open up a bespoke record store?

 

Adrian: [00:37:15] 

Well, first of all, growing up with records, obviously. I’m forty-two-years-old, so, when I was young, I was still buying records. But as a collector, I defined myself collecting records once records were going out of vogue and I still continued to buy records. So I started to really buy records around eighteen. Seventeen, eighteen, that’s when I really started getting into it. Mid to later ’90s is- is when I got in, and it’s just an obsession that never stopped because there’s just so much great music that’s undiscovered. And then in reference to me opening up this record store, I just realize that as we get older, timeless music is just timeless music, and younger generations can dig timeless music just as much as older generations. But with the lack of music stores around, it’s hard for them to find it. A playlist doesn’t do what a record store does. When you’re in a record store, you can talk to somebody and they can talk to you about genres and what this music means and all that stuff. My records are basically an expansion and duplication of my own record collection. So it’s deep, you know? It’s from all my travels around the world. And it’s all the stuff I really like. So if you’re a fan of my music, you get to see the kind of music that inspires my music. You get to the see the stuff that I feel is better than what I do, you know? This became a passion for me, and I love it.

 

David: [00:39:05] 

Vinyl was one of those things that you bought when you had to really save up – and I’m talking about in my case, okay, because I didn’t have that much money. If you bought an album, you really had to listen to it over and over again. You put it on and you didn’t stop. You attached yourself to it in a way today, things just come and go so quickly. I could hear way more music than I ever could before, but I don’t really get into it as deeply.

 

Adrian: [00:39:38] 

Absolutely.

 

David: [00:39:38] 

Each, you know, of the albums that I loved back then, I still love now.

 

Adrian: [00:39:42] 

That was a time when music was tangible and it was actual, like a product that you could physically hold. So that when you’re playing the record, you’re reading the liner notes. Um. I always say that-

 

David: [00:39:53] 

Yeah.

 

Adrian: [00:39:54] 

I always say that buying the record of an artist is the way to get the closest to them outside of meeting them in person, because it’s a physical manifestation, or it should be a physical manifestation of who they are at that moment when they’re creating that album. And vinyl is the only form of media that has not died. It’s the only form of media that has not died for music. Vinyl. Vinyls outsell CDs. You know, and vinyl is continuously on the rise. If you look at the graphs of sales, it has not been declining at all in years. It’s just continually rising, rising, rising, rising, you know? You’ll have big chain stores that don’t sell CDs but they sell vinyl. They don’t sell DVDs but they sell vinyl.

 

David: [00:40:50] 

But is this just recycling the past, or is it vinyl of today? Eventually we’re gonna run out of those old records, I imagine.

 

Adrian: [00:40:58] 

No. No, no, no. There’s so much manufacturing of records, man. These new, younger artists that come out, it’s an honor for them to put their music on vinyl. And, plus, for record labels now, they’re not selling physical products, they’re selling streams. So when they have a way to sell physical products now that have a big mark-up, they’re making more money.

 

David: [00:41:24] 

Yeah. The mark-up, the premium, it’s- 

 

Adrian: [00:41:25] 

The- Exactly.

 

David: [00:41:26] 

But it’s not the same, right?

 

Adrian: [00:41:27] 

Yeah. So like there is no shortage, there is no rehash, man. It’s like records are doing pretty well.

 

David: [00:41:34] 

And one of your favorite people to talk about music and records with is RZA, from what you were saying there.

 

Adrian: [00:41:40] 

Yes.

 

David: [00:41:41] 

And I know you’ve also worked with Wu-Tang, uh, early on, right?

 

Adrian: [00:41:46] 

Yeah.

 

David: [00:41:46] 

And even later on, as well. So what is the foundation of that relationship?

 

Adrian: [00:41:53] 

I love Wu- I mean, before I even met any of them, Wu-Tang was always one of my favorites. And then in meeting them, they welcomed me with open arms, and RZA, in particular. And, you know, I look at that dude as not just a friend but a mentor. I’ve learned so much from him. You know, just even how to control your money, and how to control your destiny, and how to reach for your dreams. I watch him take leaps, I watch him take risks, take chances, and, you know, be with me on it in a very vulnerable way, and- and I love it, you know? I love everything that they have given to me. And not just them. I mean, there’s people like Primo and Ali Shaheed. And there’s so many hip hop cats that have really taken me in, you know, no ID and given me that respect, you know? Because it’s not easy to make it in the music industry, so I just appreciate all of them.

 

David: [00:43:08] 

Do you think we’re in the middle of a black renaissance?

 

Adrian: [00:43:16] 

No. I don’t. The reason why is because if we’re in a black renaissance, I feel as though… deeming this era a black renaissance means that before this, there was substantially less going on. Which I totally disagree. To me, the real black renaissance was happening from jazz to soul, to the hip hop culture, and after that true underground hip hop culture died out, everything became really kind of pop and- and mainstream. And- and those underground elements just really evaporated, you know? There was a time when, just with hip hop, you could go out on the street and you could see a b-boy, you could see a graf dude, you could see an MC, um, you could see a producer, and they would dress a certain way, walk a certain way, talk a certain way. That is something that is a subculture, a real subculture, and that is a renaissance to me. But right now, it’s not that things aren’t happening, because things are happening, but from a creative standpoint, I just don’t see it in any form or fashion that’s deeper than what we’ve had before. Not to say I don’t recognize that stuff is happening, cause stuff’s happening but, you know, if you asked me about the Harlem Renaissance the Harlem Renaissance was the first time that you had all these black Americans in one spot empowering each other, from business to art. That’s something that was very different, and that was a real renaissance. I just don’t see it to that degree right now for us.

 

David: [00:45:09] 

Well thank you very much, Adrian Younge.

 

Adrian: [00:45:12] 

Thank you, David.

 

David: [00:45:13] 

For meeting and talking with me and sharing some of your knowledge and perspective.

 

Adrian: [00:45:17] 

Cool.

 

David: [00:45:17] 

Really enjoyed it.

 

Adrian: [00:45:19] 

Appreciate it, bro. Thank you very much, man.

 

End

 

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