By now, you may or may not be aware that something pretty cool has been taking place at downtown Manhattan art gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise these past few weeks: Afrika Bambaataa‘s record collection – recently pulled out of storage and on its way to Cornell University’s hip-hop archive – is being publicly cataloged. Which means while a 2-person staff and occasional volunteers alphabetizes and categorizes some 40,000 pieces of vinyl, anyone is welcome to roll through the gallery during business hours and get their fingers dusty checking out the collection.
And while the record nerd’s first instinct is to sift through the endless white boxes trainspotting the rarest titles that formed the basis of Bam’s sound, what’s more enlightening is discovering the more left field choices that bear “Zulu Nation Sure Shot” stickers and scrawl (e.g. a 1980 Pat Travers Band LP, Public Image Limited’s Flowers of Romance, Queen’s Jazz). In fact, it’s these annotated, personalized parts of the vinyl mass – the recurring, amusingly placed “This Album Belongs To Bambaataa Khayan Aasim” notes hitched to a numbering system; the 12-inch singles stamped “Bambaataa”; even the copies of records cracked and shot to shit from a few too many jams at Bronx River or The Roxy – that are the lost scrolls from a history that feels distant in years, sensibilities and social circles. The center labels of many – consistent with the stories we love to hear again and again – are covered up with stickers, black tape, re-purposed VHS (and Beta!) labels – whatever. On a plain sleeve that houses a copy of Spoonie Gee’s “Spoonin’ Rap,” Sound of New York/P&P Records owner Peter Brown’s phone number is jotted in ballpoint. Two otherwise pristine white labels of Bam and the Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock” dedicated “To Kool DJ AJ” from “The Zulu Nation” are bound by water damaged sleeves, seemingly never having reached AJ’s hands. The track lists of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Prince’s Dirty Mind are awarded handwritten stars for individual song sureshot-ability. A single, worn-as-hell copy of Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express rests inconspicuously, with no obvious sign of its role in a rhythm revolution other than the knowledge of whose crates it’s from.
The Bambaataa collection is on public display through this Friday, August 9th. If you’re at all interested in records or the history of hip-hop you should make some time to check it out. If you can’t, here’s a few images to give you an idea of what you’re missing.
CLICK THE THUMBNAILS ABOVE TO CHECK OUT PIX OF BAMBAATAA’S RECORD COLLECTION