Remembering when...

Down here in NC, we had a couple of the smaller mom-and-pops record stores in my city, both like 2 miles apart, named School Kids and The Record Exchange... I went to high school right in between them, and would go to one every Tuesday after school, which one depended on whether I had to go to work or home.
Soon after high school ended, School Kids moved about 3 blocks down, Record Exchange moved to their place. Within 18ish months, School Kids was closed (there is a bar on one side and an H&R Block on the other where they were now)...
The Record Exchange, living in School Kids' old spot, would stick it out for about 5-6ish more years, but there is now a Walgreens situated where that building and the aforementioned H&R Block were known for having been.

Now, as someone who has lived and gone to school in the city that he was born in all his life, I have seen plenty of the world outside of my home city/state/country, but it had not at the time dawned on me that those were not the ONLY Record Exchange and School Kids stores because I hadn't yet become the man of the world I would go on to become... I wasn't so well-spokeded yet.

What I HAVE always been, though, dating back as far as one's mind can wander, is a lover, then collector of music... Earliest memories involve me up late with a cassette tape next to the radio, waiting on a song I liked to come on, sitting with the tape poised with the "record" and "pause" buttons primed, waiting on the fucking lame-ass DJ to shut the hell up and play the song. I would learn to call and request a song if my brother had recorded some shit over it, or if my sister and her friends took my tape to record themselves doing whatever stupid shit they were doing at the time.
... that is aside from the point....

Record Exchange and School Kids...
Around high school, the game changed and it was no longer about tapes, but CDs, and I loved the change in the medium, with the exception of the fact that they were more expensive. Coming from a family who didn't have a lot, I joined the workforce while in high school for some abatement on the food/clothing end of that part of my upbringing... The added benefit to this is that I NOW have money for hobbies and shit, one of which was already music, fed through adolescence by cutting yards to get tapes. The transition to compact disc was not so painful after all, considering they didn't need replacement after designed usage after a period of time. I would learn (before the advent of the internet) that new releases hit stores on Tuesdays sometime in 10th or 11th grade, and my aim was to be in the store as quickly as possible on that day EVERY week.
As previously stated, the quickest means to this was to be at either School Kids or Record Exchange as they were right by school. Sure, I could have gone to Circuit City, KMart or Best Buy, but they were WAAAAAAY out of the way, and BlockBuster music in the mall was more expensive than a NYC hooker. (not that I am into knowing what NYC hookers cost or anything). Sure, the mom-and-pops stores were slightly more expensive by 2-5 bucks at a time when CDs already cost about 2-5 bucks more than they do right now. I placed added value in being able to buy music from people who actually LISTENED to the shit enough to be able to make an educated opinion on turning their nose up when one approaches the counter with a couple of albums for purchase. Somewhere about the time I was finishing up, one last small record store, Willie's CDs Records and Tapes opened on the other side of downtown from the others, nearer to where I lived, but not where I would be doing anything other than hanging out until high school was over, but they would become the one I frequented most, due to their having more "urban" music than the others, due to the ethnicity of ownership and location, simple as that.

Changes in transportation and actual opening of Target stores here saw the arrival to the "evil" big stores less of a hindrance, and being able to get major label stuff for less money always helped, so that became my out as it related to that, but I would STILL need access to lesser-known artists, indies and locals, and the ones who were just a step beyond selling their own shit out of the back of a van. I also liked being able to listen to music before buying it, another thing that the smaller stores would allow you to do.
Funny thing, I DO NOT remember with any indelible impact the purchase from the big-box stores, but I CLEARLY recall getting out of school on my last day prior to high school graduation and stopping to buy Wu Tang Forever on the way home (06/03/1997) from the record exchange. I CLEARLY recall cutting grass to ride the city bus to School Kids in October of 1994 to buy Common's "Resurrection" after hearing "I used to love her" on Rap City after school. Nas' "It Was Written" released the day after my 17th birthday, I bought it at Willie's with birthday money. Common's "One Day It'll all Make Sense"? (my favorite hip hop album, by the way) I got it at School Kids between classes on release date 09/30/1997. This also harkens back to when reading The Source actually mattered so as to know what was coming out. I could go on and on and on with the albums that have stuck with me, like that I still listen to and how they almost ALL were tied to a purchase at the mom-and-pop shops.

Perhaps, as I approach 30, I am getting a little old. Perhaps I actually MISS being able to go to a small record store and it actually being worth my while to be in there. School Kids closed, Record Exchange lasted until like 2003, which is also when Willie's closed, then reopened as JB's Music Connection (which, by the way SUCKS in their current iteration as "The Hip Hop Spot," and I will never set foot into again) and it became the in thing to order exclusives and hard-to-finds online through Amazon, Half.com, HipHopSite and whever else people are going these days when they're not just straightup jacking them with the downloads. I miss the times when I could have a day off, but $5.00 worth of gas in the car (hell, I miss $0.89 gas too, but that is another story) and ride out all day, stopping at each of these little stores, digging for 30-45 minutes PER store in EVERY stack on EVERY aisle looking for something I did not yet have and MIGHT or not enjoy. The thrill was in the hunt, and finding something that someone might have purposely planted in the wrong place so they could come back on their payday, and buying it because I wanted it was just one of my things. I know I got beat like that more than once, turnabout is fair play, I guess.
Technology has made the necessity of this moot, but nostalgia never stops to worry about such details, does it? Sometimes I will put 15-20 bucks worth of gas in the car (god damn you, inflation!!!) and do the same, but since I only have one "record shop" record store around now -- since I am NOT driving 45 minutes to Record Exchange in Winston or School Kids in Raleigh -- I do it in the used stores now. I find a lot less than I used to, and I am attributing that to the fact that I now have so much, so the thrill of it is fleeting fast. In such, I have been forced to channel that passion into other things, as finding the shit on the internet is quite simple and mundane as a result of the simplicity. Those who know me know what the other things I am into are, reading my blogs should make it readily apparent to anyone even trying to know.

What all set this in motion was what STARTED as a response to a blog I was reading just before I started typing this one of my own, and the fact of the matter is that the response was more of a blog entry of itself than a response to one, so I had to make it one in itself.
Thanks for reading, all.
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