For those less familiar, Rekords is the ultimate hip hop record store selling new and second hand vinyl, audio tape cassettes, CDs, DVDs and VHS video cassettes. Nearly ten thousand record collection contains essential classics from the Golden Era, underground gems, rarities and plenty of Danish hip hop to dig in. Being a cultural shelter for local folks, Rekords hosts various events at the store, runs a record label for local artists, and without a doubt, keeps the underground spirit alive within the hip hop community.
RPM Records team visited Bragesgade 1 in Nørrebro to talk to Jakob Hejnfelt Thorén and learn the story of Rekords – The Mecca of Underground Hip Hop in Copenhagen.
Jakob, you started a web shop in 2013. What were the motives for doing so?
Firstly, it was because I needed some money, I needed to make a living somehow. But that is a long story. Before getting into the record business, I just traveled for a few years and lived of some jobs here and there. I was hitch-hiking around in Europe and Middle East. Then I met a girl and we moved in together. When the traveling life stopped, I had to do something to make a living. What I had from before was the music and not much else. So I started selling some of my records to make money.
It worked out pretty well and then I found a big record collection for sale. My wife (back then she was my girlfriend) lend me the money for the first collection I bought. I started selling that and it slowly developed into a company and a web-shop.
In the beginning I was just selling out of my own collection, but then I started buying and selling and it quickly developed into a business of something that I have passion for. Hip Hop music and vinyl records have always meant a lot to me.
How did you come to the decision of having a physical store?
A lot of people were telling me from the start that the web-shop I ran was something very needed in Denmark. Because it was difficult to find a big selection of second hand hip hop in Denmark. You could find a bit here and there. The record stores in Copenhagen only had 1 or 2 crates of Hip Hop.
Eventually, my web shop was growing and customers started suggesting to open a physical store, so I did! You know, that is the thing about my story – it has never been planned. I could not have imagined this store 15 years ago when I was just collecting records, but if you had asked me back then, this would be my dream job.
That is awesome! Can you talk a little bit about the concept of your record store? How is it different from other stores?
OK, my shop is first and foremost a hip hop record store. Like I said before, other record stores have many genres and a little bit of hip hop. When people come over here, they are impressed because there is so much hip hop.
One of the reasons why my store is special is because I sell rare Danish Hip Hop from the 90s that you rarely find in other stores. Since I opened my store these records became more available again. I always hang the most rare Danish Hip Hop records on the wall and that makes it kind of a museum as well.
Recently, I started selling records of other genres as well. Now I have jazz, funk, reggae and a few other genres. Collectors, DJs and of course producers that are looking for samples and breaks have been asking for this.
Do you sell all kinds of hip hop or rather some particular style more than anything else?
I am trying to embrace all hip hop. That is at least what I think, but “all hip hop” for me is 80s, 90s and into the millennium. I also realize that there is a lot of new hip hop that I know shit about. Sometimes younger fans ask for that and I try to order it. But of course, the 90s hip hop and Danish hip hop is the heartbeat of my record store.
Relating to Danish hip hop, do you sell old-school as well as new releases?
Yeah yeah, I have everything from the days when it started to the freshest releases.
“When I went to NYC and L.A I thought that I will find so many stores and records that I can bring back to sell in Copenhagen and I could not find any store with equivalent amount of hip hop. It was kind of mind blowing.”
There are not many towns in Europe that have a record store dedicated to hip hop music. Are you selling stuff abroad as well?
Definitely. I am a Discogs seller and I have Rekords web shop. I sell a lot abroad on Discogs. I ship to Germany, UK, USA, Japan, France, the whole world. It is definitely unique to have a hip hop record store. I think my record store is the only one in Scandinavia of this kind. But I know there are some in Germany as well.
When I went to NYC and L.A I thought that I will find so many stores with records that I can bring back to sell in Copenhagen and I could not find any store with the equivalent amount of hip hop. It was kind of mind blowing. Then I realized that I am doing something special and tourists coming to my store mention this.
Do you sell most of the records online? Or in the store?
I would say it’s 50/50. A little bit more in the store, but I also sell a lot on Instagram. Actually, I sell a lot that way. It would be interesting to know how much of my actual sales are on social media. Sadly, it gets registered as sales in the store at the moment, so it is hard to know exactly.
Do you think that running a physical record store without selling online is even possible?
Definitely not in my case. I could not make it. Maybe if I had a small store with low rent and a storage it would be possible. But right now my rent is pretty high, so I could not make it just from sales at the store. On another hand, I started as a web-shop and I worked my way into this.
Where do you buy your records?
Mostly I buy collections in Denmark. In the beginning I was searching a lot online and contacting people who may want to sell their records to me. Simply saying, I was just spamming people but some of them sold their records. At the same time I was selling them an idea of a hip hop record store. After some time people started to contact me for buying their stuff, because they heard that it is the right place to go for selling your hip hop collection. On top of that, I always search for records online. For example, it is cheaper in USA and Japan, so I buy batches and ship them over.
“We live in the times of the vinyl revival so it made a lot of sense to start a record label and press records again. It also became more easier to do so.”
You started a record label in 2018, right? On top of that you have been doing many events in the store, releasing, selling Danish hip hop and so forth. Would you please explain what role does your record store and the record label play in the culture of Danish Hip Hop?
It is an important role! Haha! OK, you know, opening the physical store was just a natural development in selling records. The following natural development was taking in new records and then later releasing music on vinyl. We live in the times of the vinyl revival so it made a lot of sense to start a record label and press records again. It also became more easier to do so.
I have friends and know many other people through the record store who make music. I thought it was the right time to start a platform for releasing their music on vinyl. The first thing I released was a compilation Beasts Vol. 3 with instrumentals from Danish producers.
I have always been a big fan of instrumental hip hop and beats culture. When Berlin Zoo – Super Bad Disco was released in 2017 (and the record is very good), I thought I need to get back into the Danish beats culture. So Beasts Vol.3 compilation was a continuum of something that I released many years ago, but this time on vinyl.
Were you also releasing music prior to Rekords Records label?
Yeah, but only digital releases. However, I had the knowledge, some experience and I have a record store, so it developed very naturally into a record label. My first release went very well, I started making more and I clearly saw that a record label can be a part of my business.
Then I started organizing release events and my previous store was too small for that so I moved here to Bragesgade in Nørrebro. Then people started contacting me for hosting their release parties and it gradually developed into something important for the culture and the scene. It is a place to hang out, listen to music, meet people and talk about hip hop. I even have a couch in the store and people love that!
“It is very simple – having a record store cuts a distribution link in the chain. I sell records that I release through my store. When I have a new release I also play it a lot in the store and I can promote it that way.”
There are a number of record stores that also run a record label. How does having a record store plays a part in running a record label?
It is very simple – having a record store cuts a distribution link in the chain. I sell records that I release through my store. When I have a new release I also play it a lot in the store and I can promote it that way. Of course, I do that with other records as well, especially with Danish hip hop releases. I find it as a good way to promote new music. I feel that having a record store helps me a lot in pushing releases from my record label.
This year you released 8 albums already. That is a lot. What is the future plan for your record label?
Of course to press more records! I have few releases planned already, but I like not to tell anything about it before I am very close to the release date. I rarely announce any in advance. I think it used to be that promotion was necessary before the release. But nowadays there is so much music released on vinyl everyday that I feel it is better to take people by surprise.
For instance, I have Tonni Is – Tonni Is x Mighty One in my hands now. I have not mentioned anything about it and I will publish it next week. I usually press limited editions with some copies on color vinyl and the majority on standard black. Once I announce it, people want to buy it quick, before it gets sold out. I also sell some of the test pressings, because collectors want to buy it.
Jakob, would you talk a little bit about the artists on your record label. Why these artists are important for you, for the record label and for the Danish Hip Hop scene?
First and foremost I release music that I like, the hip hop that I think is dope. Everything I release is underground. For example Tonni Is, I did not know him a year ago. He came to the store with his previous EP, it was dope and I found out he was doing more music with the producer Mighty One. So I offered them to release it on my label.
I want to promote and push forward good music and people that I like, but at the same time is a part of the business. When I get the opportunity to release music from someone that I was a fan of when I was younger, then of course I will do that. I release both upcoming artists and more established artists, that are still underground.
For example, I have been a big fan of the Danish producer Context for a long time. When he wanted to release a solo album Songs of Absence, we made a deal to put it out on my label. I also made two reissues on vinyl of albums that mean a lot to me but were released only on CD in 2008. And it felt good to finally press that music on vinyl. I always wanted that on vinyl but it was not available. Today I can make it available because I have the record store. I think it is just a nice way to promote quality hip hop.
Having a store on Bragesgade attracts more people, that are not necessarily a part of the hip hop culture. Sometimes they are looking for something more mainstream because their knowledge is not that deep and I feel it is nice to present a whole underground culture to people in this way.
Why is your record label unique in the light of all other record labels in Denmark? How is it different, if it is?
If you listen to my whole catalog, the sound will vary a lot. But I think I found a specific dusty sound and I try to be consistent to some degree. I want people to feel the vibe of my record label and I want them to have some expectations of what is there to find. I also try to make sure that it is always a strong release, so people will come back for more.
Many people are sending me demos but I have to say no to most of them because I just think it is not good enough. I am trying to keep the high standards while also releasing only underground sound and making the contrast between what is being played on the radio. But I am always kind to the people who send me demos and if someone reads this – don’t hesitate to send your demo!
Are you still a record collector?
Haha! Yes I am, of course. I still collect records, but not as much as before. It is difficult to collect records when you have a record store. I don’t have too many records at home. I have some of course, and I have a record player. But it feels like the record store is my record collection. The second hand stuff is always changing and it is nice having a collection that is always changing.
I spend all days in the store listening to records so I don’t even listen to vinyl that much at home, to be honest. Danish hip hop has always been my big interest and I collect a lot of rare stuff. For example, test pressings or white labels that are very hard to find and that I come across while buying collections from the legends. Of course, I keep those rarities for myself.
At the end of the day everything is for sale, haha! When I have to pay taxes sometimes I have to sell records that I would not sell otherwise. For me the most important is to keep the store running and in a good shape.
Do you have records in the store that would be hard to let go??
Of course! For example, I have some Danish hip hop test pressings on the wall. They are not for sale. But if somebody offers insane amount of money, like 100 thousand kroner – I would probably sell it, haha! There is not so much Danish hip hop on vinyl, and I know the most of it, however, I still find some stuff on white labels or some instrumental versions of releases that I did not know existed. I collect those.
How many records do you have in the store?
Hmm, I have around 3500 second hand records with prices on and around 5000 cheaper records. And I don’t know how many new records I have. I also have a lot of records that are not listed, I try to list some every day.
-Gems to find at Rekords–
Enjoy Your Vinyl!
Head of Quality & Communications at RPM Records