When Fat Beats closed their record stores in New York and Los Angeles last year, the cratediggers of the world eat their hearts out. Not only because they lost a one-off vinyl treasure trove. As well they lost a unique social centre of Hip Hop independence. Thankfully the Brooklyn based record company still releases matchless HipHop artists that are not guaranteed sellers up to today. Carhartt Radio now feels honored to present an exclusive Fat Beats show full of matchless music from such artitst like Large Professor, CSC Funk Band, or KRS-One & True Master, all mixed with pure Funk energy by DJ Monster. Like always we looked behind the scences and hooked up with Fat Beats founder and head honcho Joseph Abajian. Here is what he told us about his life, the good old days, and the future of Hip Hop music.
Fat Beats exists since 1994, can you tell us how your story started?
Joseph Abajian: In Hip Hop, i'm a B-boy first, then graffiti writer, and then deejay. I went to La Guardia college and got a degree in business administration. I wanted to start my own business and the home of Hip Hop, NYC, didn't have a Hip Hop record store. Since Rap music is the number one source to make money in Hip Hop, I opened a Hip Hop store that carried Hip Hop and a lot of Rap. With the blessings of the Lord, the people came by and I was able to flip all the inventory I bought in the first week. Hip supported Fat Beats and the story began in July of 1994.
Since the launch of Fat Beats Hip Hop culture emerged and grew into the mainstream. What is the good and what is the bad part of this evolution in your eyes?
Joseph Abajian: Hip Hop has it's elements that form the culture. Hip Hop has actually been on a roller coaster ride in the mainstream. Rap has become America's pop music. I know it's easily associated with Hip Hop but most popular Rap is Pop music with a Hip Hop influence. Deejaying got popular in the mid-90's but has since left the public eye. The art of deejaying has went digital and being a Hip Hop deejay isn't as dynamic to audiences as it was in it's prime. Break dancing seems to be emerging in all kinds of outlets mostly non-Hip Hop. America's Best Dance Crew, Rock and Pop videos, and some commercials. The good part about this is Hip Hop has become a household name and is now accepted in main stream society. The bad is a lot of non-talented people that have nothing to add or help the culture now make money off Hip Hop.
From retail to running a record label and being a distributor - was it all a logical progression and did it come along with the progress in Hip Hop?
Joseph Abajian: Yes it was a logical progression at the time. I was young and naive when the company expanded. I learned a lot about people and certain business practices but i'm grateful that Fat Beats has lasted this long.
It has been one year now that the NYC and LA stores closed down, which was also a consequentially step. Hip Hop lives on in different ways, types, and formats. Do people romanticize the good old days too much?
Joseph Abajian: There are certain people that live on reminiscing. But as society continues to change, we have to go along with the changes whether we accept them or not. I don't believe it's healthy to compare 1980's and 1990's Hip Hop to today. To us, it was the good old days but the younger generation didn't experience it and cannot comprehend what we felt. My old boss used to tell me about the parties he went to in the 1970's and what parties they were but you can't compare them to the 1980's.
Do you miss the physical store?
Joseph Abajian: No. The store to me closed 5 years ago with the lack of support from the so-called Rap artist. I have plans for a Hip Hop theme park type store and a high end Fat Beats boutique.
How would you describe the musical bandwidth of Fat Beats now and then?
Joseph Abajian: What made and continue to keep Fat Beats pure with the raw music we put out. I have to admit we are working with more eclectic music these days than hard Rap but it attracts the same fan base. The kids looking for new and innovative sounds.
What are your future plans for Fat Beats?
Joseph Abajian: To upgrade the distribution company and open a Fat Beats boutique. Do more web-site sales and continue to sign good projects. Were trying to work with good Hip Hop.
What was your biggest hit so far?
Joseph Abajian: Atmosphere - God Loves Ugly.
What does it take for a hit and who is responsible for creating them nowadays?
Joseph Abajian: Good music is still the formula for hits. Fans are more responsible these days for making them. With the web, fans actions will let an artist and a label knows where they stand with them.
What about the role of DJs in this game?
Joseph Abajian: In Rap DJ's hardly have a role, most of them are there as a hype man while the rapper raps to a CD or the mix is already recorded. Not many rap to live DJ sets. In Hip Hop you have DJ shows where people come to see a DJ spin but it's different from when we came up. I've seen events where the whole crowd will watch a deejay mix and not dance, just stare at him all night.
How do you see the future of Hip Hop music?
Joseph Abajian: Hip Hop has a selected small crowd. It's strong all around the world in it's small pockets. Rap music will continue to go down in sales. Rap won't be as popular to the masses in the future. I see good Hip Hop slightly coming back into the mainstream.
What advice would you give to producers, rappers, and DJs who are just starting out?
Joseph Abajian: Form a group, strength is in numbers. Get popular with real fans in your home town. If you are big in your home town, you are onto something good.
You choose DJ Monster for mixing us a dope show, can you tell us a little bit about him?
Joseph Abajian: He used to work for the company before he moved to Florida. He's one of the better Deejay's here and his cuts are pretty tight. I didn't have many deejay's to choose from and I'm very rusty these days. I also like to give my staff and former staff opportunities to make a name for themselves.
How did DJ Monster select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show?
Joseph Abajian: We gave him our un-released music.
In Hip Hop vinyl releases are decreasing. Even big artists don't release singles that often. Is vinyl only for collectors?
Joseph Abajian: It's somewhat for collectors and the last of the crowd that wants to hear their favorite artist in the best possible fashion available. Vinyl sounds better than any tape or digital device.
What's good about this change of format? Do DJs play more often tracks that wouldn't be released as a single? Is there more diversity around?
Joseph Abajian: Popular Deejay's have gone away from playing good music and breaking artist to playing what's been stuffed down into peoples throats by the music industry through paid commercial and college radio programmers.
How is music a part of your life?
Joseph Abajian: For Rap & Hip Hop I listen to old school, very few new music. My main preference is Gospel music.
What are your hobbies beside music?
Joseph Abajian: Studying the Word of God through Bethel Bible Institute. Praying, raising a family, and helping to coach my son's peewee football league.
What records from the past coined your live?
Joseph Abajian: Public Enemy's first three albums, Run-D.M.C., early Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul.
What is the most obscure record you have in your collection and why?
Joseph Abajian: I wasn't that into having a record, just to have it because there are only 200 copies made or so. I have Run-D.M.C. Peter Piper 45"s that was given to me by Jim Mahoney when he was at Profile Records. Peter Piper is the epitome of a Hip Hop song.
Who are you listening to these days?
Joseph Abajian: Flyleaf, Norman Greenbaum, Lester Lewis, and a slew of Gospel artist.
What are you current top 10?
Christina Aguilera - Mercy On Me
Human League - (Keep Feeling) Facination
The Jacksons - Can You Feel It
Kierra "Kiki" Sheard - Love Like Crazy
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky
Run-D.M.C. - Christmas In Hollis
Tina Turner - River Deep Mountain High
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - The Waiting
Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmas Is Coming
The Who - Tommy
When do you feel most at peace?
Joseph Abajian: At church.
Fat Beats Discography