Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Phono Booth Record Store 1983-1999

If this were a film instead of a blog, this would be an establishing shot. Pictured above is the Phono Booth record store, a integral part of the hip-hop scene in Richmond in the '90s and the setting for many a Wavelength episode.

The Phono Booth was owned by Artie Jefferson. His sole employee was my co-host, Dre. Artie had been in the record game for years and he knew how to play it. Some of the biggest names in black music made appearances at his cramped store.
This place was essential to our achievements. Since our access to the television studio was limited, the record store became our favorite location for interviews. Masta Ace. Redman. Lady Apache. Jeru. Mobb Deep. Big Shug. We did a lot of work in there.

The music didn’t stop at the Phono Booth. Artie coordinated an annual showcase of local talent for three years at a nearby parked. For three years, people listened to music and partied until sundown without incident.

Things weren’t the same after a gunshot victim staggered into the store and collapsed one day. It may have been a harbinger of harder times to come. The Internal Revenue Service put locks on the store in 1999 and sold the contents at an auction. The store came back under different ownership and a new name, but with Artie still calling the shots. It lasted for awhile. Then the landlord bought out the store and turned it into a laundromat.

This picture is from a photo essay on the store I did for one of my college classes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Return of Jo Doja

My co-host brought a kid to my attention one day outside of the Phono Booth, our unofficial headquarters. The kid started to freestyle and I was a little leery. But after the first couple of lines, I realized that he was performing a tribute to our video show. I was almost humbled. He threw in a dis to a rival video programmer and I've been a fan of his ever since.

Yesterday, on a day pass, I stopped by of the few remaining independent record stores left in my area. I noticed a flyer for a new CD from Jo Doja. This is was what Lil Fats took to calling himself several years ago. Smart move. You can't be "Lil" or "Yung" forever. After a deal with Priority Records dissolved a few years back, Joe seemed to be stuck in label limbo. He's back now.

The existence of this CD ("More Than Music") proves that patience,loyalty and hard work can pay off. Jo stuck by the small label he's associated with and the production team (I think they're the same person) that supported him and now he's poised to reap the benefits. I haven't made it through the whole disc, but it sounds professional and radio friendly. Jo shows some maturity with this release with a variety of subject matter and a degree of introspection amid the club bangers.

Someone call Nokia. Mr. Doja is ready for his ringtone.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Change the Style

The Son of Bazerk were a rap band far ahead of their contemporaries. Unfortunately for them, they were also way ahead of their intended audience. The beats, the look, the style were borrowed from the future and stolen from the past. A silk-suited rapper whose style went from reggae to hardcore mid-song was "too much for the mental." Bazerk was joined by bandmates with names like "No Self Control," "Sandman" and "Half Pint." It was 1991 when I interviewed Son of Bazerk and the music industry still hasn't caught up with them.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Life at the Barnes Center

They say rehab is for quitters, but that doesn't mean it's not hard work. Things have been very busy at the Dee Barnes Center for Recovering Video Show Hosts. We recently received two arrivals fresh from a stint on some BET show. One of them has having such hard time adjusting, he apparently cut off all of his air. I think we'll be meeting with him twice a week.

Good news, I have obtained access to some video equipment and I plan to post some video from the archive soon. So, be prepared for some glorious VHS footage that's been compressed and squeezed and looks much older than it really is.