An early morning on the schoolyard, one of my best friends came up to me and handed over a Maxell cassette.
He told me to have a listen to this and so I did.
Nothing suggested that this simple cassette would change my life forever.
Side A contained Public Enemy and the other side of the cassette had N.W.A. on it. I can still remember listening to it and being hooked directly!
This was new, this had power, this was the movement I’ve been waiting for. It was simply something I didn’t hear before!
The lyrics, the beats – they were amazing. I was into punk, new wave, metal, etc. before, but it didn’t take long for me to go to the music store to buy my first original hip hop cassette: Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill.
Being pretty young back then as I was born on the 1st of January 1975, I didn’t have a grown up income to buy a lot of albums. From time to time I was able to buy one from the pocket money I received.
The real collecting started in the nineties when I had a job working in a fast food restaurant. All the money I earned went directly to new music. The fact that my favorite music store was on the other side of the street from the restaurant didn’t really help me to save some money. From then on the hobby went fully out of control ending up in what it is now, a room filled with over 10000 cassettes, CD’s & records, and counting as the collecting never stops.
I cannot tell this story without mentioning my friend Stijn Coppens, who is now one of the best hip hop photographers around. When entering his apartment back then, it was like entering a museum. He was collecting already some time before me and he gave me the extra push to also start doing it. In no time I caught up with him and when years later he stopped collecting I bought all his albums that I didn’t own yet. It must have been one of the biggest transactions I did.
Over the years the idea of collecting changed from “simply having to want all that music for myself ” to “also wanting to preserve all of it, in other words, to preserve the culture.” In the ever changing world nowadays, everything becomes more and more digitized on mp3 and other formats. Good news of course for everybody who wants their music bundled on their smart phone, tablet, or other device. I hardly have any mp3’s myself as I think it is important to have the original album on CD, vinyl, or cassette – also, collecting mp3’s just doesn’t sound right. I have always been a fan of the artwork as well and with the digital revolution I kind of feel that this part of the legacy is getting lost.
Besides all the albums, I also collect hip hop magazines. I focused on The Source and Rap Pages as those were the
two magazines which were available over here monthly. Other ones like the Rap Sheet, Murder Dog, and others didn’t
make it to my shop weekly or monthly. Going through those hundreds of magazines from time to time just brings me back into the old school feeling. It’s like a time machine… Since a few years , I also try to document all hip hop concerts in my area. Armed with my Nikon, I capture all legends on stage and backstage. Once again with my partner in crime Stijn, we are living a dream: meeting all the artists we looked up to when being young. It’s quite an experience.
Some years ago, my girlfriend pushed me to do something extra and start working on a website. So this is what finally happened, I brought all my memorabilia together and started learning to web design, eventually ending up at the creation of my website: www.hiphopcollector.com.
Main objective is and will always be the collecting of hip hop records. I mainly focus on U.S. hip hop as the United States is the birthplace of it. I know that it is impossible to collect everything, but every album I buy nowadays brings me closer.
With the internet being around, it is much easier to find and buy everything. I clearly remember that in the past I had to go almost daily to all possible music stores around to try and find new albums, back then we still had stores to go to. At this moment I hardly have a place to go to, therefore I spend most of my time searching the internet for opportunities: people selling their collections, online shops, etc.
My collection goes from East to West, from North to South, from the most known artists to the most obscure ones, with the most obscure ones most of the time being the most valuable. For example, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back must be the album of which I have most copies, but even if it is one of the best albums ever made, it is rather easy to find and pretty cheap also. But if I speak to you about One Gud Cide’s Look What the Streets Made album from 1995, I’m pretty sure that hardly anyone has ever heard about it. Yet if you check the price tag on it, you will be very surprised. And this is just one example.
But personally I don’t pay a lot of attention to the value of memorabilia I have. Of course it’s nice to read about it, but I’m sure I will never sell them.
In that way I’m really lucky to have had old days to start collecting as a lot of the older albums in my collection are now out of print and as said: when you find them there is a serious price tag hanging on them. Another goal I try to reach via the website is to pay respect to the hip hop pioneers. It’s important to keep everybody aware of who paved the way for today’s artists. The music industry is such a fast moving train that lots of people might forget where it all began.