For the record collector, each vinyl represents a fossil, part of the evolution of music. They are the archaeologists.
Collectors scour private collections, thrift stores, online, and beyond to find ancient gems – Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Cowell, Madonna – whatever your poison is. The true bastions of ‘crate-digging’ (searching through collections in search of the good stuff) are the 70’s style vinyl shops. No Equal Records is one such store.
For Steve Wheeler, owner of No Equal Records, the obsession with records started at the age of 6. He’d be up before school, spinning breaks on his dad’s turntable: the chorus off one track, the hook off another, foreshadowing a passion that would take him across the continent.
Wheeler isn’t a musician or a DJ. When he was growing up in St. John’s he became captivated by Hip Hop. He moved to Vancouver and spent 10 years around the DJ culture.
He learned that hip-hop is built on “breaks,” short samples of older records that can be looped and built upon to allow MCs to rap without a backing band. These “breaks” are the ancestors of Hip Hop. It’s finding this source material that keeps Wheeler going — building on his collection.
Wheeler and his portable Numark turntables have been to Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles and back in search of the freshest. Old bowling alleys, private collections: some shops with 1,000 “pieces” and some shops with 100,000. In the world of “crate-digging,” there are legendary collections that stretch on seemingly forever — libraries of musical history.
It was this searching that brought him to the studio/shop of Adrian Younge, modern day mega-producer and revivalist of 70’s-era soul (for a great sample of his work, check out Ghostface’s Twelve Reasons to Die).
Adrian took a notice of Wheeler and introduced him to Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. Wheeler explained his vision for No Equal Records, and it what these two men that gave him the confidence to see it though.
“I told him about my idea to open a store and keep it to the hip hop, funk, and jazz. He said, ‘Well, why can’t you? Offer it to them – give it to the people!’ To have somebody like that encourage you and set you straight on a few things, it’s like, forget it man, any of the doubts – set those aside.”
No Equal Records opened its doors on November 13. For Wheeler, it is really about spreading love for the world of vinyls for the novice and the seasoned collector. He hopes to be able to help out others in their quests in the same way his mentors have helped him; the world of vinyl is deep, but with depth comes the reward:
“If people come in and say that they are looking for a particular record, then if I can help them I certainly will. I pride myself on being able to do that and it’s happened a few times since the shop’s been open — that James Brown you’ve been looking for? I got it. That whole process blows my mind.”
Check Out No Equal Records on 2 Bairds Cove downtown – right next to Civic Duty underneath Living Planet/Johnny Ruth.