I loved our recent Essential Records piece about Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. I loved the personal reflection and the reminiscing about that time and how it had an impact. So many of us are touched by music at a point in our lives - by a particular song or record - and it's amazing how much it sticks with us, and resonates for years and years and years. Just hearing that record can make us feel something deeply: a moment in time, a time in our lives. Music is the wallpaper and the soundtrack. For some of us it is something way more than the background, it is at the core of who we were and are and who we developed into.
Karen at the Info Counter (~1990)
Of course I had a slightly different, but just as pivotal, experience with the release of the album. It has been one that has carried me from the Bay down to LA. Black Star was released the year that Amoeba opened in San Francisco. It was what reminded and reassured me why I was committed to doing what we do every day with music. Because, simply put, artists and musicians were still challenging and stretching and inventing and bringing music to people in a whole new way to whole new generations.
Any longtime Bay Area music fan knew and loved the long gone Berkeley record store Leopold Records (circa '68 - '96), which used to be located at 2518 Durant in the block above Telegraph Ave. and down from Bowditch Street. Back in the day you could go spend lots of time (and money) as the hours slipped past and you got lost digging in their never-ending rows of music, invariably getting assistance along the way from the store's dedicated staff, who really knew their stuff and were more than happy to share that musical knowledge.
At one point, Oakland emcee Del tha Funkee Homosapien even worked at Leopold! The store, for Bay Area rap fans, was the number one destination when you wanted to get the latest hip-hop releases. The store also had many artists stop by, including MC Lyte (pictured above) and Saafir, who once did an in-store (well, technically an out-store, since it was right outside the building) at Leopold. (See video clip in the second part of this two-part Leopold Records' Amoeblog.) Scroll down below to see Joan Baez at a Leopold instore performance from 1993, singing a version of "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" that includes, much to the crowd's delight, a spot-on imitation of Bob Dylan. Michael Jackson even did made an appearance at Leopold's back in his heyday.
Leopold's many former employees went on to other music industry positions: former rap buyer Daria Kelly now works at Six Degrees Records in San Francisco. Read her Amoeblog interview recalling Leopold Records' role in the hip-hop community in Part II of this Amoeblog remembering Leopold's.
Many Amoeba Music employees also worked at Leopold's and consequently, it seems, have carried over that tradition of truly caring about the business that they are in. Amoeba Music's Karen P (in pics both above & below) is one of those people who used to be a part of Leopold's. I recently asked her if she thought there was a connection between her old place of employment and Amoeba Music. She replied: "Yes, there definitely is a connection, both philosophically and in spirit. Part of it might be that much of the beginning (and even current) Amoeba staff started at Leopold's." Karen listed some of those individuals as Mark Beaver (in B&W picture below), Craig Bishop, Lisa Loomis, Stacy Young, Roxanne (in MC Lyte pic), Barbara Ballesteros, and Lynne Brady. (Read Amoebite Lynne Brady's wonderful stream-of-consciousness rap recollections of Leopold in Part II of this Amoeblog -- to be posted tomorrow, Friday.)
The fun and the cameos from old school Leopold Records employees:
Point is, man they had a lot to say about life. Really pure. So, I wish I could embed Kiss Me and I'll Kiss You Back, cause that also had some wonderful staff in it, but whatcha gonna do. Anyway, a shout out to Daria who brought in Hammer when it was tapes in his trunk for commission, and even more so on the long term Yeh Yeah: bringing in the Digital Underground and help blowing them up as well.
Good times, friends. Good times. For those new to the Bay, the scene, whatever you want to call it? Coolest thing was, when Amoeba Berkeley opened up a few blocks from Leopold? It was all love, baby. No sense of competition or us vs. them. How rare is that?? Now, chunklets of us work at Amoeba (woot, wooooooot!) and maybe even own a piece. (Not me, baby!) Kisses to the joynts that do it all for the right reason, including a little shout out to a store in Austin Texas!