As a child I remember my father having a huge crate of records that sat beneath the windowsill in one of the rooms of our house. He also had what is now considered vintage stereo equipment that he purchased sometime during his young adult years in the 80s. Despite having what had to be a few hundred records I never saw him play any, most likely because in my childhood cassette tapes were the latest music rage and my dad spent most of his time dubbing his own mixtapes to play in the car. With cassettes, and eventually CDs, being how my dad got his music fix his records were mainly a decoration in a music lover's lair, and sadly a fixture for an infant to climb on top of to look out of the window they sat underneath.
In my teenage years my dad bought a new record player when he learned that he could use the computer to transfer his old vinyl albums to CDs. With this new discovery he began digging through his record crate and rediscovering his old favorites. I witnessed and heard this whole process. Having been born to older parents I grew up on pre-90's music and grew to like artists like the S.O.S Band and Earth Wind and Fire. To this day, I still get more excited by old funk/soul music than most new music. I instantly became curious about the new record player when I saw all of the albums that my dad left lying around the basement and began to play them for my own listening pleasure. The experience of physically flipping the albums to play the other side was highly engaging to me.
By my early 20s I found myself in Vintage Vinyl and decided to buy my first two records of my own, Nas' "the Lost Tapes" and The Brother's Johnson "Look Out for #1." Nas was, and still is, my favorite musical writer/poet of all time and I've always loved the funky soul groove of The Brother's Johnson. I played those records faithfully almost every night. By this time the iPod and MP3s were in. My dad didn't use his record play as much but when he saw the records I bought it took him down memory lane. Although his passion had been reignited mine still had not yet fully emerged. The convenience of my iPod made my record playing short lived.
My father passed away in early 2016. Like anyone who loses a parent it's an entire process to deal with it. Part of my process was getting deeper into music which made sense for me having been in the prime of growing as a musician and artist. Despite being involved in other art forms music gave me the most peace.
While having discussions about my dad with my aunt the subject of his love for music would always come up. This inspired me to revisit his record collection and play a few of his records that had been left sitting out over the years. The first thing I noticed when playing them was the tremendous difference in sound quality compared to MP3s. Vinyl albums sound so much fuller and truthful to the original recording which is something I grew to appreciate as a musician. I also found this to be true when I purchased my first record in nearly five years, Esperanza Spaulding's "Emily's D+Evolution. I compared the sound of Vinyl to that of the digital download that came with it and the record made me feel so much more present in the music than the MP3 version. I was so eager to express this marvel to all of my music friends.
When discussing my dad's record collection with one of my friends (shout out to E. Nicole) she suggested that I have a record listening party in honor of my father. Influenced by her suggestion, I decided to have a record listening party for my birthday that year and invite friends to help me explore my dad's collection since I didn't know what albums were there other than the few I played over the years. This was a life changing experience. Through the ears of my friends I was able to learn how music savvy my dad was and how many gems he had in his possession. Some of the records that got player were Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," Prince's first self-titled album, and Whitney Houston "I'm your Baby Tonight."
After that night I was committed to not only preserving my dad's legacy of records but also continuing to add to it for the next generation of my family to enjoy in the future. Continuing to grow the record collection will create a music catalog that's representative of albums from each generation and will serve as a sonic time capsule. I also find value in the physical format because it's something tangible that can be given unlike digital files. That's what record collecting means to me.