it. “German WHAT??!!” is the typical response, and this is usually followed by hysterical laughter. At the same time, I have often felt frustrated watching hip hop videos from the U.S. on German TV, knowing that many of these images have nothing to do with everyday HipHop fans who are neither “ghetto fabulous” nor “gangstas”, but just people living hip hop 24-7. I proposed this series of articles to broaden the awareness of hip hop fans in Germany and the U.S. of each other’s existence. I am not suggesting that this is the definitive word on the HipHop experience in Brooklyn, rather it is a glimpse into what some people are thinking and feeling about HipHop. Part One focuses on a small hip hop music outlet, Part Two is a discussion with a filmmaker about images of black women in hip hop videos, and Part Three concludes with my thoughts on HipHop as a global youth movement. If you have questions or comments, give me a shout at email@example.com. Peace, Inez Part One–On Da Lo Music Stores If you turn off Flatbush Avenue headed towards Fulton Street Mall, chances are you’re going to run into Kenny. He’s standing on the sidewalk handing out flyers, and he wants to know what kind of music you like. If you say HipHop, he’s going to escort you inside to the tiny counter that represents one of the four locations for On Da Lo Music Stores. The guys who own and manage On Da Lo Music Stores understand what it takes to compete and succeed in the highly competitive music store business in the United States. Dre, L, and Red Bandit started O.D.L. about five years ago and believe that providing excellent customer service is what sets them apart from the megastores that increasingly dominate the music business. "We offer personal retail service, and in America service is the main thing. Everyone wants to be catered to," says Red Bandit. To prove it, staff members like Kenny stand on the sidewalk in front of their locations passing out flyers and leading potential customers into the store where another employee selects CDs guaranteed to suit the new customer’s taste. "The hardest things about this business are continually providing excellent customer service and providing excellent products at a competitive price. Our customer service is what gives us the upper hand. By escorting customers into our stores, we’re bringing them into our world and once they’re there they don’t want to leave. And when they finally do leave, they come back," according to Dre. But customer service is only half of the story, the other half is product.The O.D.L. product consists primarily of DJ compilations. “We provide a service to new artists,independent artists and DJs”, says L.
“It`s not that we don’t sell the big-name folks, cause we do stock the Top 20 stuff. It’s just that we’re primarily there for the independent artists and the guys just starting out, who might need help getting their music out on the street.” This is particularly important for Red Bandit, a HipHop artist himself. “Yeah, On Da Lo was actually my idea. I’m an artist myself, and I know how rough this business is.” If it’s rough being an artist in the music industry, it’s just as hard selling HipHop music in a highly competitive environment. Dre explains their situation: “We don’t have any formalbusiness education– we basically taught ourselveseverything we know about running a business. We also don’t have any debt. We did this on our own,starting with one location and following with a newstore every year. But it isn`t easy. There are the megastores with more product on one side and the African guys undercutting our prices on the otherside. But we believe that we offer something to the community, both in the excellent customer service we provide and by hiring and training our employees. We give people opportunities, and we teach them that if you want anything in life you have to work for it. Simple as that. Actually our work environment is more like a family than a bunch of people who just work together.”
And what about their extended HipHop family in Germany?
“I had never heard about HipHop in Germany. Man, that’s just amazing. To know where HipHop came from and to see the people in other countries who are into it, well it’s just amazing,” says Dre. “It seems like people appreciate HipHop more in other countries than they do here in America and that’s wild. But that’s great, too, because it creates more opportunities for HipHop artists. Yo, it’s all good,” adds Red Bandit. “I think I need to go over to Germany myself and check out the scene and see what’s up.” And what does the future hold for the young entrepreneurs of On Da Lo? “We want to continue our success. A megastore would be nice. Itwould also be nice to go worldwide.” Hmm. . . Maybea little On Da Lo customer service is just what German retail needs. By the way, On Da Lo means secret . (you know, “keep it on the low”)