Bohemia Blog by Agent Michael Reese Machemer
Music and Harlem are synonymous. The uptown streets possess an inspiring beat many musicians have channeled into their sound. Some of the greatest artists were born or have lived there. From Jazz Renaissance greats like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone to 555 Edgecombe legends like Count Basie and Coleman Hawkins. 20th century composers, also from Harlem, include Ira and George Gershwin, Mambo King Tito Puente, and R&B Soul God Ben E. King. Pioneering rappers like Kool Moe Dee and Doug E. Fresh and later contemporary wordsmiths Q-Tip, Tupac, Big L and Cam’ron all make the neighborhood a hotbed of talent for over 100 years.
In August of 2017 two 30 year olds, (technically millennials but not of the Amazon.com variety) decided to open a record store at 300 W. 142nd Street called Cinderblock People, named after their dance party/cassette series.
“We’ve been living in Harlem for 10 years, love meeting people and want to be more than mere spectators,” says Patrick, who co-owns the shop with his partner Emily. “We love playing records at home, picking them up on our travels and watching them played and mixed live in DJ sets,” he continues. “We’re uptown through and through and are never going to live in Brooklyn. Harlem represents the best of the city, the melting pot and clash of old and new, highbrow, and low. Truly the neighborhood in the big city feel.” The storefront gate was painted by Harlem artist, James ‘BlusterOne’ Alicea whose visual work exemplifies the rhythmic beats of a street poet.
The stacks at Cinderblock People are broken down into Soul & Jazz, Hip Hop, Dub & World and House & Technom, but lately they’ve been expanding into various Rock genres. Long players by stoner-metal favorites Sleep, French pop darling Francoise Hardy, fuzzy new wave shoegazers, Jesus and Mary Chain and former professional skateboarder turned jazzy guitar shredder, Tommy Guerrero. Patrick flips a new black label, dance 12 and muses, “We’re here for a collector looking for an OG press, someone who wants to dig and find something they’ve never heard, someone who wants to build a collection of essentials. Anyone really.”
Diving into the bins I find myself leaning toward a quadruple LP pressing of Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me,” something you don’t always see and not to be snoozed on. Same with D’Angelo’s “Voodoo,” which I know my wife will appreciate. The clerk, a young local kid sees the record in my hand and jokes that his mom loves that album and would have the poster over the bed if his dad allowed. A customer overhears the conversation and we all break out laughing, “sex music.” An impromptu human connection seemingly lost when shopping online. Cinderblock People is open six days a week from 12-8 p.m. and is closed on Tuesday. Check out their website (www.cinderblockpeople.com) for record specials and upcoming events with local DJ and artists.