Interview by Julia Rodionova & Josiah Titus Photos by Eilon Paz
Let’s start with your name. It’s a nod to Coke La Rock. Can you say something about him? What he means to you?
He’s pretty much to me the epitome of hip hop because he was the first MC. I just saw hip hop in the mainstream dying out, and I was raised with it, and I care about it, and my name is about paying homage to what it’s really about and keeping it alive.
Back in the ’80s, everyone was Ski or Rock. Now everyone is Young. That’s just kind of how it happens.
What was your first record? Do you still have it?
What about some of the early additions to your collection? What was the first thing you collected?
I started breakdancing in the early ’80s in high school, so I was buying records to dance to. An article came out in the Village Voice, Afrika Bambaataa had a list of 100 best break albums. I tried to conquer that list. I wanted to get everything on it.
Talk about a few of the records off that list. What were the first ones you tracked down?
I took Bambaataa’s list into Golden Oldies in Everette, WA. I think it was Gordy who helped you. Pretty sure. He ran it for years. Baby Huey’s The Living Legend was the first thing he pulled out. They only had three. Jimmy Castor’s It’s Just Begun and Hancock’s Head Hunters were the other two. I bought ’em all.
The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend
Jimmy Castor – It’s Just Begun
Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters
Where else did you discover new music?
The first time I heard a Fela Kuti record I was at a friend’s house. His parents were from Africa and he was playing this music and I was going nuts. I was like, “What is this?” He was like, “It’s Fela Kuti.”
“I’m still a student. I learn about new records every day. Something might be forty years old, but if you’ve never heard it before, it’s new.”
And one thing leads to another, doesn’t it?
In every country, there was someone who thought they were James Brown or Michael Jackson, and some of them were actually pretty good.
Everything influences everything. Think about how big the world is and what’s out there. Even in just America. Someone shows you something and you’ve never heard it before. And this is when you think you’ve seen it all. With all these collectors, people still turn stuff up. It will never end. Just think, there were bands that had test pressings who were trying to get a deal, and it never happened, and these copies are just laying around.
Sola – Un Muneco de Madera “I found this in New York maybe five years ago. I knew about it before that. A friend had it. The cover was the first thing I loved about it. And it’s a good record. Sola used to be a nun. I don’t even know how I know that. I must have read that on the internet. That’s another thing that happens when you collect records. You gain a wealth of knowledge that you weren’t necessarily looking for.”
“If there’s a banjo on the album, it’s probably not going to be very funky.”
What about cover art?
It’s like a book. You can’t judge it by its cover. I have some records that look terrible, but they’re good. And vice versa. For the most part, you can tell a lot about the record by the sleeve. The artwork, the year, who produced it. There are plenty of clues. If there’s something I like about the cover, I want to know how it sounds. I’ve definitely bought records because of the record.
What are some of your favorite album covers?
Submitted Question: What is your guilty pleasure album? One you wouldn’t show your friends/fellow DJs. Pictures please. -Richard Bryan
I don’t have a guilty pleasure. I’ll show my friends anything. If I did have one, though, it would maybe be Justin Timberlake. People shouldn’t be ashamed of what they love. If they like it, they like it.
You pulled an album off the shelf just now. Can you say something about it?
A friend of mine found this for a dollar at a thrift store. I was talking to him on the phone that night and I asked if he found anything. He said no, just a copy of Hot Chocolate, which is a common record. A few months later, when I was at his house, I saw it and I was like, “That’s not the same Hot Chocolate. That’s a different group. I’ve been looking for that.” He let me have it.
What do you look for in a record?
Anything that’s funky. Anything. There are country records that are funky. Most stuff from ’70-’74 was funky. Who produced it? David Axelrod? You know it’s going to be amazing.
Submitted Question: What is the most valuable record you found for the least amount of money? -Otto C. Phocylious
Stark Reality. A copy’s up on eBay right now and it’s already at $1,000. I found it in the early ’90s for $.50. I don’t buy rare records. I just buy what I like. Sometimes they turn out to be rare. Sometimes they don’t.
Submitted Question: Outside of records, what is the pride of your collection? -Otto C. Phocylious
A: CTI Record Case. It’s leather and it looks like Louis Vuitton. I heard it was promo only, but someone recently found a piece of paper where you could order the case, so I don’t think it really was promo only. Somebody found it and posted it on the internet in a forum. I emailed him and him and was like, You want to let that off? He said he would trade it for a 45 he couldn’t find. I sent it off that day. Something by Mary Lou Williams. I don’t remember what. Rumor was, this case originally came with a Bob James 12”. I have that 12”, but I didn’t get it with the case.
Tell us about some of your favorite records.
Mark III, Marvin Whoremonger. It’s extra funky, but the amazing thing is, kids made it. They were 15, 16 and 17 years old. And they’ve got songs on here like “Sex in Motion,” “Pusherman” and “The Party’s Over.” How were kids able to make a record like that? And then, in the thank you, they end with, “And the most important factor, ‘God,’ who made the whole thing possible.”
Another favorite is People’s Pleasure with Alive and Well – Do You Hear Me Talking to You?
Submitted Question: How many 45s do you own? And what’s your advice for DJs who have been spinning for a while but want to try their hand at 7-inches? -Jaycee
I’ve got 5,000 45s. As for advice, practice as much as possible.
They sometimes ask me for ideas about what to reissue. One day we were out to lunch and I said, “Hey, look, I discovered all this Seattle stuff nobody knows about.” They weren’t interested. They were like, “Really?” I said, “If DJ Shadow or Kenny Dope brought this to you, you’d be all over it.” They called me half an hour later and said, “Let’s do it.” I don’t know what changed. Maybe they thought about it or I said something…I don’t know. But we did it, and it has been one of their best sellers. It has become a whole thing. We did the comp, put out a 7” box, part two is coming out. We did another album with all the original musicians and now there’s a movie. The best thing about it is, all those musicians are playing again, which is great to see.
Ron Buford – “Deep Soul Part 1“
Submitted Question: Favorite old school hip hop records? -Jon
I like the early stages. It’s like disco rap. They’re fun, and they’re slightly silly. If you listen to the words, they’re fun. It’s party music. I don’t like what’s popular now, at least not most of it. Mainstream hip hop promotes negativity. But then there’s tons of new stuff that’s good, it’s just not popular.
What do you want to happen to your collection when you check out?
I want them all sold individually on eBay, and I want all the money to go to my wife and son. That’s the best thing I can think of to do with them. Unfortunately, that’s happening with a friend of mine right now.
What are some records people might not know about? Not necessarily rare stuff. Maybe just overlooked.
There’s plenty people haven’t heard. There’s plenty I haven’t heard. People sometimes don’t realize something exists on 45, but in other countries that’s how it was released. They’ve seen the songs on albums, but never on a 7”. Then there are variations on songs that people either don’t know or have forgotten about. Like Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial. I put that on and people are like, “Yeah, I know this,” and then the lyrics kick in and they’re like, “Wait, what?”” Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire while they were filming that. I don’t know if y’all remember that?
What about a comfort record?
What about a baby-making album?
Do you still dig?
These days, I go out and dig all day and come home with nothing but an empty tank of gas. But then I’ll stop in a thrift store and find something I’ve wanted for twenty years and it makes the whole thing worth it. So yes, I still actively dig.
What records always go with you when you DJ?
Where’s the unlikeliest place you’ve scored a record?
My car broke down once. I was a kid, I had just gotten my license, nobody had cell phones back then and I was walking to the payphone, and I passed an army surplus store. I get half a block down the road and it clicked in my mind: did I just see records in that store? I went back and sure enough they had a whole bunch of records. Someone had given them their collection and they were selling everything for a buck. If my car had never broken down, I would have missed out on all that.
Tell us about your shirt. What is Vinyl Veterans?
It’s a DJ crew from England. I’m an honorary U.S. member. Me and Ox from New York.
Do you have any record-buying rules or philosophies?
Whatever’s hot, I go the other direction. If nobody’s looking for it, it’s going to be cheap. Trends are funny like that. Someone finds African funk and suddenly everyone is looking for that. When that happens, I try and find something else. When funk’s hot, I’m searching for easy listening breaks.
When you find something new, if you like it, do you go in search of the rest?
You have to. I figure, if they made one amazing album, the others got to be good. That’s not always the case, but sometimes it just takes me time to realize if something’s good or not. There are records I hated when I found it, but now I love them. In the end, sometimes a group really only has one good record, but you have to find out.
Los Angeles Negros – Los Angeles Negros
Let’s end with something funny. Can you make us laugh?
Finish Henderson album. He’s got red leather pants on and a mean cameltoe. Looks like it hurts.
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