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Video Vault: 10 Hip-Hop Artists Go Shopping at Amoeba Music

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Have you ever been to an Amoeba Music store? They’re incredible. As a guy who was born in the Bay Area and moved to New York at a young age, I used to salivate on family trips back to California during my teenage years in the ‘90s thinking about spending any money I had in Amoeba. That’s all I wanted to do. “Dad, can you drop me off at Amoeba? I’ll meet you at the burrito place in four hours.” I used to burn dumb loot in there! They had the crazy used CD section, everything new under the sun in every genre you could think of, ill vinyl, movies, posters, all that.

I remember I copped The Roots first album there, Organix, which I didn’t even know existed at the time (it was right after Do You Want More?!!!??! dropped), Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s The Main Ingredient instrumentals on vinyl, the first Cymande album, and other life-changing stuff like that. It was heaven for a young music lover, and fairly priced, too. My only wish is that they’d open up a store in New York so I wouldn’t have to fly 3,000 miles just to go in! But unfortunately, there are only three locations: Berkeley, San Francisco, and Hollywood. I’ve been to all three, and they’re all huge, and most importantly, still in business.

Amoeba’s been doing a really cool web video series since 2008 called “What’s In My Bag?” where they catch up with different musicians and celebrities while they’re shopping at their stores and find out what they’re planning to purchase. And over the years, a good amount of hip-hop artists participated (many of which we’ve posted here at NahRight), sharing what they dug up in Amoeba (and sometimes not sharing certain stuff too, because, you know, there’s rules to this shit). So for our latest Video Vault feature, we put together a collection of 10 hip-hop artists who appeared in episodes of “What’s In My Bag?” including Mos Def, KRS-One, Large Professor, The Alchemist and Evidence, Childish Gambino, and more, to get a feel for what type of music (and movie) consumers they are. Check out what they copped below.

1. Afrika Bambaataa

Legendary hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaatta had one thing in mind when he went shopping at Amoeba Music in San Francisco: THE FUNK. And from “that New Orleans type of funk” to “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown, he found plenty of it. He also shared what it was like to work with James Brown in the ‘80s on their collaborative record “Unity.” Give enough respects.

2. Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino is one of the more recent artists to share his Amoeba come-ups, and he does a cool breakdown of his picks here, from Brooklyn soul band the Menahan Street Band’s debut to a favorite from his youth, Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. He also talks about his love for N.E.R.D.’s first album, and why Wreck-It Ralph is a slept-on flick. Fun selections.

3. KRS-One

KRS-One popped up in Amoeba Music in Hollywood with his son, who was DJing parties at the time, to cop him some essential rap albums for his music arsenal, saying, “As a DJ, you have to be walking around with the classics.” And he proceeds to scoop him up copies of everything from Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s Mecca and the Soul Brother to Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers to Gang Starr’s Step in the Arena, of which he says, “If this is not in your collection, you can forget it.” Nice job, Dad!

4. Large Professor

You can tell Large Pro takes this digging thing seriously. He’s got the gloves on, and when Amoeba caught up with him in their Hollywood location back in ‘09, he was finishing up his third straight day of shopping for records there. As a dude who lives by old school record-shopping rules, he doesn’t reveal all his pick-ups, but he does shuffle through his stack a bit and pull out a couple choice albums by people like disco queen Gloria Gaynor and jazz musician Paul Horn. He also talks a bit about his mentor, the late great Paul C, who he describes as a “professional beat digger,” and says taught him “how to be meticulous with it, and how to make everything count.” Dope segment.

5. Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey)

Back in 2008, the artist formerly known as Mos Def went shopping at Amoeba Music in San Francisco, and filled his bag with a variety of discs, such as a Madlib collaboration with Brazilian artist Jackson Conti and some other choice Madlib and Brazilian albums he came up on, indie rock group the Cold War Kids’ sophomore album which had just dropped, and a couple hip-hop albums that also were new at the time, Large Pro’s Main Source and Jake One’s White Van Music. But the score of the day was the CD he came in looking for, noise-rock band A.R.E. Weapons’ self-titled album, which he describes as having “a New York vibration,” then adding that “the lyrics are funny, [and] the music is raw.” Sounds like an ill album.

6. Phonte

You can tell Phonte of Little Brother and The Foreign Exchange fame is a true music lover after watching this clip. He cops a whole bunch of stuff during his shopping trip to Amoeba Music in Hollywood, and even throws down $25 for the Prince-created band Madhouse’s album 8. Plus he cops Inglourious Basterds, which he hilariously calls “fun for the whole family,” and a Michael Jackson DVD for his 9-year-old son. Love it.

7. Questlove

In addition to being a ridiculously talented drummer and band leader, The Roots’ Questlove is also one of the most knowledgeable music fans and collectors in hip-hop today. During this visit to Amoeba Music in Hollywood which was filmed in early 2011, he picks up “what’s regarded as three critically-acclaimed” Grace Jones albums, two copies of a J Dilla anthology, some classic Rick James and Jackson 5 albums, and more, all on CD. He also grabs a couple DVDs, including Happiness starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a handful of sale-priced copies of The Roots’ EP The Legendary, which is now out-of-print. Congrats on The Tonight Show gig, Quest!

8. DJ Quik

DJ Quik refers to Amoeba Music as his “safe place,” and during this episode, he talks about each of his purchases, from old jazz and soul vinyl by dudes like Dave Grusin and Leroy Hutson to comedy discs by Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Katt Williams. He also discusses his reasoning behind copping The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Annie soundtrack, and drops a couple digging gems along the way, including how it’s good to look at the credits listed on the back of an album to see what musicians played on it. Good stuff.

9. DJ Scratch

DJ Scratch, who not only is a nasty DJ but has also produced for everyone from EPMD to Busta Rhymes to 50 Cent (just to name a few), paid a visit to Amoeba in Hollywood to cop some 7” records, aka 45s. He comes up on some gems by rap legends Run-D.M.C. and soul singer Clarence Carter, and cops a dope box set called What It Is? Funky Soul and Rare Grooves, which he says he plans on keeping as a collectible and not even opening. In addition, he breaks down why he loves 7” records, saying that they sound better than 12” and digital music files, and also that they contain rarities, giving the example of how old Marvin Gaye 45s would have instrumentals to his songs on them. Pay attention.

10. Step Brothers (The Alchemist and Evidence)

Longtime friends and collaborators The Alchemist and Evidence, also known as the Step Brothers, shared what they found during a trip to Amoeba Music in Hollywood back in ‘09 hunting for vinyl and CDs. Building off what Large Professor touched on, Alchemist denies us access to his vinyl pile, but breaks down his CD purchases, separating them into old and new stacks. He picks up a Pete Rock & CL Smooth compilation which contains a couple soundtrack gems like “One in a Million” and “Death Becomes You,” his favorite Beastie Boys album Paul’s Boutique, and Kool G Rap’s 4, 5, 6 “for inspiration,” as well as new albums (at the time) by Havoc, Exile, and Black Milk.

As for Evidence, he also cops Black Milk’s Tronic album (“Black Milk caught two sales today”), B-Real’s solo album (which was new at the time), a Maxwell album (inspired by his appearance on Alchemist’s single “Smile”), and some other hip-hop stuff by Johnson & Johnson and The Foreign Exchange. He also flies through his stack of bargain soul records, all of which he is unfamiliar with, though he admits to knowing some of the artists. And he points out a CD by 4hero, which he calls his “most interesting cop of the day,” and co-signs their “sick” song “Golden Age of Life.” Aiight!

More “What’s In My Bag?” episodes HERE. Also, as a bonus, peep Devin the Dude’s shopping trip to Amoeba with XLR8R TV HERE.

Previously: Video Vault: 5 Underappreciated ’90s Posse Cut Videos |  Video Vault: 5 Classic Snoop Dogg Performances of DoggystyleSongs | Video Vault: 10 Classic Showtime at the Apollo | Video Vault: The Top 20 Rap Videos of 1993 | Video Vault: 5 Classic Wake Up Show Freestyles | Video Vault: 5 Pre-Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z Videos | Video Vault: 7 Classic Smack DVD Clips