In celebration of Coalmine Records’ five year anniversary, the Brooklyn-based indie has released a compilation entitled “Can You Dig It?” This digital-only, full-length compilation contains 15 tracks of the label’s singles catalog that has spanned over the past five years. It also boasts an impressive song line-up from artists signed to the boutique label, in addition to noteworthy guest features, both of which represent a wide brush-stroke of today’s underground hip-hop scene — including El Da Sensei (Artifacts), Heltah Skeltah, Evidence, Saigon, Inspectah Deck, Bekay, Skyzoo, Supernatural, Big Noyd, Brown Bag AllStars, Torae, Custom Made and more.
In this column, Matt Diamond (CEO of Coalmine Records) shares his motives for releasing “Can You Dig It?”
I decided to release this project for two reasons. For starters, it’s only right to release a compilation that best represents the quality, buzz-worthy music that we’ve released over the greater part of the past decade. The second reason is a bit more personal; this release is an ode to the single. For many artists and labels, the 12-inch (12″) single represents a humble beginning. Consider Def Jam’s inaugural “dorm room” release of the single, “It’s Yours”, from T La Rock and Jazzy Jay. For others, it may signify a come back or fresh start, as was the case with Pharoahe Monch’s transition into solo artist stardom with his hit single “Simon Says”, off Internal Affairs. For all of us, it represents the epitome of what we have to offer musically.
As someone who started a label with roots as a DJ, music enthusiast and vinyl collector, perhaps one of the most integral forces that drew me to hip-hop culture from the perspective of a consumer, was the 12″ single.
As a DJ, purchasing a 12″ was like buying an instrument. Unlike MP3s, records are unique from one to the next and have characteristics unto all their own. It’s the skin to a drum, a key to a piano, a string to a guitar. A dope single meant I was buying two copies. When I’d get home from the record store, I’d tear off the plastic, turn the inner sleeves out, mark up the cue points and clock the bpm, where I’d tag it on the top right corner of the jacket. From there, I could spend hours just vibin’ off that one record as I’d bring it back, double-up and cut up the acapella over the instrumental.
As a music enthusiast, a 12″ single meant I was broadening my musical lexicon. I’d study the rear cover and learn of the track’s details from the production credits to the publishing info. I’d become familiar with the remix, where I’d often favor it over the original. There’s nothing better than choppin’ it up with other “nerds” and starting a sentence to the tune of: “Nah, that was the ____ remix, from the b-side of his 2nd single.”
As a collector, purchasing a single also meant that I was expanding my collection — a record is an extension of one’s style, taste, expression and possessions. A vinyl collector is not only collecting music, but a piece of art as well. The 12″ was a vehicle for transmitting the culture. An album cover would often be designed to connect with the commercial audience, but the single … the single spoke to the DJs, to the heads.
It was through 12″ singles where I’d often first learn of an artist. Long before our blog-obsessed Internet culture where vinyl reigned supreme, unknown artists pressed their single as a means to be heard and hopefully gain a following. To a collector, these vinyl singles are time capsules. I’d always find it amusing when most of my friends would first hear of an artist once they signed to a major or achieved some level of mainstream success … often months or even years after I had a white label pressing of their first 12″ stacked away in a milk crate.
Can You Dig It? embodies the essence of the 12″ single, bundled for consumption as a 15-track, digital-only release. We invite you take a walk with us through the past five years and familiarize yourself with our singles catalog.
On behalf of Coalmine Records, I can assure you, there’s much more to come … can YOU dig it?
For more info on Coalmine Records or to purchase Can You Dig It?, visit CoalmineRecords.com.