Drop The Needle-Documentary Review

“If you’re passionate about something, your seeking of knowledge is there. You can’t find it in the libraries, you can’t find it anywhere.” -Drop The Needle

Have you ever wondered where, in the days before the internet, the OG DJs found their music? You were most likely born after the 1900s, in case you were wondering. Vinyl records existed before Spotify, CDs, mp3s, and cassettes. The only type of music played in nightclubs were on vinyl. DJs required records. A location in Toronto brought the music scene together. Play De Record. A recent documentary  called “Drop The Needle” examines the heyday of Toronto’s music retailers. What we’ll discuss is one store in particular.

Drop The Needle is a documentary about the legendary Play De Record music store that was owned and operated by Trinidadian born Eugene Tam, that was first located on Yonge Street and then Spadina Street in Toronto. I have known this store since I was in high school. That’s when my love for music and finding new ,usic became an obsession. The amount of nostalgia that I felt watching a new documentary about the store and Toronto DJ culture was incredible. I love that there was a culture for people to spend hours in a store listening to music and not look weird. Let us explore the documentary and make sure to watch it on Amazon Prime.  

I was immediately sold on the doc as soon as it started. My favourite Toronto DJ collective were represented. The ‘Baby Blue Soundcrew.’ I loved their music and their mixtapes. DJ Kid Kut spoke about his journey and his connection to the Play De Record store. My favourite song by the squad has to be Money Jane Ft Kardianl Offishal, a then internationally unknown Sean Paul and Miss “Home on Native Land” Jully Black. I was 13 years old when I first saw the Kevin De Freitas directed music video for the song on Much Music. I mentioned Kevin because he is one of the OGs in Toronto music video creation in the early 2000s. He deserved the honourable mention.

There were a lot of Toronto natives mentioned in the documentary. Maestro Fresh Wes, legendary rapper/producer/studio owner Solitair, DJ Grouch (who performed at the Woke Up A Rebel Latin Nights event in July 2022), comedian Russell Peters, DJ Starting From Scratch, Skratch Bastid, Chris Sheppard and many more. It was overwhelming to realize how much talent has come out of my lovely city.
I may be wrong, but what I’ve noticed about the evolution of DJing is that without House music, DJing wouldn’t be as popular as it is today. The idea that someone can play for a crowd of 50,000+ people and just playing tracks is so dope.

Michele Geister- She brought Hip Hop to Much Music. Much Music was Canada’s version of MTV.  September 1989, is when Rap City came to Much Music. TV was where people found out about new music and then if they wanted to purchase any, they’d know to go to Play De Record. 
Traxx Records and Play De Record were on the same street. What Traxx offered were records and audio equipment. Brilliant. 

Play De Record ended up innovating their idea by adding mixtapes. That’s what people began looking for. Play De Record faced almost the same treatment as DJ Drama. DJ Drama was raided by the FBI due to his mixtape business. Labels started going after everyone when mixtapes were booming. Mastermind & DJ X were the Hip Hop mixtape DJs of Toronto.

Being a DJ is a sport. You’d have to go in on Monday, figuring out what songs you wanted and reserving for Thursday’s new music day. The more popular you were, the better your chances were at getting the records you wanted.  Play De Record built a small studio in the basement of their shop. They also opened a music production academy. They were more than just a store. They were contributing to Toronto music lovers having a safe space to stay off the streets.

El Mocambo, a music venue at Queen and Spadina was mentioned. It’s such a  magical place. I would pass this venue every day during my high school years. The documentary was well made. I can only imagine how much work, research, thought and passion went into making it. I hope everyone checks out the documentary on Amazon Prime. It’s about Toronto DJ and music culture. It’s no wonder why Toronto is an elite music culture hub in Canada.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets to ‘Rumba & Riddims Pt 2’ at Rivoli. August 25th, 2023.
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Written By: Mario Funes

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