CRATERY 85: Mastersihn

It’s funny to think I wouldn’t be typing these words right now if Kaewonder hadn’t asked me the question “Do you follow that dude @mastersihn on Instagram”?

We’ve met a lot of good people online, and with a common love for good records and good smoke, Philly’s Mastersihn is definitely one of the good ones.

We connected for the second time when he drove up for last year’s epic Live Convention weekend.

Naturally, a Cratery episode and interview were in order. Episode audio below.

I realized you were a true record nerd when you broke down the origin of your name. Mind sharing it with our readers / listeners?

So the name is a nod to one of my favorite movies growing up “La Planete Sauvage”. I caught it on public access TV late night in my teens. Coming home all fucked up and finding that shit on TV was a real mind fuck. The movie and the music had huge impact on me and when I got into records it was one of the first grails I was after. I got lucky and caught a copy very early on and to this day I still consider it my favorite record of all time. The name is a play on one of the adult Draag characters in the movie who was part of the famous trippy meditation scene.

I need to get a proper copy of that flick for the files, man. When did you start buying vinyl? What kind of stuff were you buying when you first started?

Grew up listening to my Pops’ records and because of the generation I was in when I first started buying music for myself it was on cassette. It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I discovered the train downtown and the magic of hip hop 12″ singles. Then came jacking my Pops turntable followed by a second (direct drive) turntable and the Gemini “scratchmaster” mixer.

Funny I had a similar start. Straight cassettes. Particularly because I took the bus everywhere and I needed my music to be Walkman friendly.

I feel like there was a point when my taste began to mature a little and I wasn’t necessarily chasing the same exact records I was after when I started. Did you experience a similar shift?

[Laughs] Honestly, I’m real slow to mature, so I’m still chasing the kind of shit I was when I first started in some regards. For example: a wicked drum break still gets the juices flowing even though I have thousands already and highly doubt I’m going to make super producer status anytime soon. So basically, if there was any shift it was towards really good records that I don’t have to get up off the couch after one track and change. But that could be an indication of getting old and lazy more so than my musical taste maturing, I dunno.

You and me both [laughs]. That’s kind of the impetus behind Cratery to be honest. But I’m still hip-hop. I just bought a monster break on the weekend. I guess that never goes away.

Your hometown spots like Funk-O-Mart are the stuff of legend. What was it like digging in Philly back then?

One of the most amazing, life-changing discoveries for me in my early teens was the train into the “Gallery” mall downtown.  You could get off the train in the basement of the mall, come up, fuck around in the mall, buy gear and shit, then when you hit the streets the real fun began. Philly in the early 90’s was off the fucking chain! Wild shit going on everywhere from street vendors selling bootleg everything, from music to what ever the fashion trend at the moment was and people hustlin’ everything everywhere. 3 card monte, weed, women, fake jewelry – you name it. When you came out of the Gallery you would come up on Filbert Street and walk right across the street to Armand’s records. Then after that you walk 1 block down to Market street and hit Funk O Mart. When you were done there, you’d walk half a block back down to 11th and hit the Sound Of Market. I called it the vinyl triangle. I was always operating on slim funds (usually saved up lunch money) so if I had anything left by the time I got to the third shop it was a miracle. Sadly, I didn’t make the most of my time and money in those shops cause at the time I remember seeing all the local indie rap shit on the shelves and laughing like “yo who’s wasting their money on that shit when you could get this new Craig Mack 12″!!!” Also I’m sure all three shops were packed to the gills with all the indie boogie and modern soul and gospel that goes for crazy loot these days.

When you were in town for our Live Convention show back in November, you talked a little about the competitiveness to get records in Philly even for the average digger – and how Toronto seemed more casual in that respect. Can you expand on that?

Nowadays, Philly is a very strange place to buy records. They’re here but everybody knows that we’re a huge destination for anybody who’s really on this record shit and it’s been that way for way longer than I’ve been in the game. It hasn’t tapered off a bit over the years, really. We’re talking well over thirty years of people coming from all over the world with the single goal of extracting the city’s natural vinyl resources and most of them come a few times a year. So that’s taken a major toll to the point where there are lots of private press Philly records that don’t show up in the city at all anymore and you have a better chance getting them from sellers overseas. That, combined with the awful store situation we have here. They’re almost all basically buying fronts for eBay and discogs. It’s like it was a reaction to so many people coming here to buy that all the stores got greedy and went the same route. You know the look on the face of a record store owner when they see another dealer gripping their stuff up without hesitation they get that look of panic in their eyes like “Oh no, I’ve made a mistake”. Next thing you know, all the new arrivals are getting listed on discogs for crazy prices and only make it to the shop if they don’t sell online. My beef is you set up a store in a community to service that community and of course make money while doing it, not taking advantage of a community and then denying any actual real collectors in the city a shot at stuff because of the hope you can squeeze a couple extra bucks out of it online. Sure in the short term you could probably make a few extra dollars online but that person isn’t coming to your store and buying other shit while he’s there to grab that record and he’s not telling their friends who come into town “yo you need to check out his spot!”. If you want to sell online, close your shop run an ad in the paper and don’t waste my time coming in your shitty shop with the same stale bins and permanent wall display just so you can show me the good shit you got behind the counter that your listing online. Seriously go fuck yourself!!!!!  In Toronto, you have more of a sense of pride in the community especially with Aki and Cosmos setting the bar for how a store should be run in this new internet age. By all means, use the internet to get business but drive that business into your shop. That’s how good things start to happen, people make connections, exchange information, bring in good records to trade etc.

Some might see our little niche record community on Instagram like a new kind of Soul Strut. It’s a place where likeminded heads follow each other and share music and even sell records. Some folks are divided over whether or not social media has been good for record digging. Some complain that nothing is a secret anymore and others complain because it’s turned into a dick show where everyone’s flossing rares for likes. We certainly connected over Instagram so it can’t be all bad. What are your perspectives on record digging and social media? Has it changed or influenced the kind of music you’re buying or how you buy it?

Instagram is a totally new experience for me. I was a small-time lurker on the Soulstrut board, never making the leap to actually interacting with people. I’d never done anything social media related until I figured out that a local record spot was selling all their good shit dumb fast cause they were posting it on something called Instagram. People were snapping it up before it even hit the floor, but the owner was being smart about it and not shipping – so he was still driving business into his shop. That got me motivated to check the thing out and it’s been a real game changer. It’s a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand, it’s totally amazing to be connected to likeminded people from all over the world, but on the other, you’re going to be exposed to a lot of shit you don’t condone and just shitty human behavior in general. The biggest problem that can’t be ignored is that there has definitely been a shift to some people feeling overly entitled to everything from knowledge to records and even personal relationships. We came up where all those things were a slow gradual process that at times sucked, and you wished you could bypass, but that’s what you had to do to pay your dues. Now we want it all immediately, myself included, so I try to remind myself of that daily. All that said, I try to focus on the positive aspects like linking up with good people like you guys and all the knowledge and records I’ve gained over the last few years. It’s really amazing and not something I take for granted. That’s why I try to “add on” as much as possible and not just get caught up in the record equivalent of a dick measuring contest. It’s definitely changed the way I dig because we now have a whole new option that can be an unexpected source of info at any given moment of the day. As far as my tastes I’m pretty locked in in to what I like. My tastes are broad, but the common theme has always been hip-hop – that’s were I come from and those are the lenses I look at the world through. I’m attracted to all things I think have a hip-hop aesthetic to them and I find that in the strangest places. That lets you know that hip-hop is a movement that’s nothing new and began a long time ago, not just with the invention of “rappin”. I just don’t think it had a name for a while.

A lot of us hip-hop dudes fell in love with library records because they sounded like rap records. Share 5 of your favourite libraries and tell us why.

Yeah library was just starting to hit when I got into collecting in the late 90’s.  I was lucky and met a record dealer who was making it a priority to find these things. He was mailing post cards and going to all the production houses on the east coast and cleaning them out long before anybody caught on to the value of them. Unfortunately, he was a bit of a star fucker and was selling them to all the NY producers mainly the DITC contingent so my nobody “little dude” ass was only getting to buy the scraps that those guys left behind (they didn’t leave much behind), but I did get to see and hear a lot of them before they bought them. So while my collection wasn’t expanding like I’d hoped, I was gaining a ton of knowledge on which labels and titles to look for. So now many years later I’ve managed to track down a lot of that stuff and some of my favorites would be:

  1. Hanged Man OST (technically a soundtrack) it was originally released in two parts on the Themes label as Drama Suite 1&2. You can get pretty much the whole thing on one record for around $30. Really tough to beat that one.
  1. John Cameron – Afro Rock. One of the best records from one of the best library labels. There are tons of great KPM titles I could pick but that’s one of the most consistent.
  1. Nick Ingman – Big Beat.  One of the De Wolfe labels most epic contributions (that’s saying something, they have a lot to offer) to the library world is matched with one of the most eye grabbing covers of all time with an elephant swinging a hammer for a trunk.
  1. Sea Fantasy – Armando Sciascia on the Italian Vedette label that was actually owned by Sciascia. This is a great and possibly my favorite example of the “underwater” style of library music that has become so popular as of late.
  1. Philopsis – Freesound   A crowning achievement of weirdness from one of my favorite library men of all time Jacky Giordano. I know brother Kae would agree with me on this one, it’s just the perfect combo of bizarre yet somehow funky sounds and patterns. Not to mention the recording/mixing/mic-ing of everything on the Freesound label is next level.

Like all of us at Cratery, you share a mutual love for weed and wax. Has smoking before digging ever affected your judgment in a questionable way?

Burning trees been a daily operation for over twenty years so I’m not too affected as far as buying goes. It would probably have a bigger effect on me if I hadn’t burned something beforehand. Like I would be rushing and not taking my time and being thorough and miss something I would have caught if I was in a better state of mind. It’s definitely a tool in my arsenal, you can put me in the worst most unsettling of situations, negative 10 degrees in a shitty, moldy basement with rats running around, as long as I burned something beforehand and I’m finding records I don’t need shit, I’m good money! I’ve got to confess though I do love taking my homie Tripledouble out on a dig and getting him all roasted and then he thinks everything sounds great on the portable and then when we get back to the spot and he’s like “why the fuck did I buy this?” “Damn you got me too high again” [Laughs].

[Laughs] I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall victim to that too. Most of my friends consider me a huge rap fan but whenever I encounter one of your indie rap posts on Instagram, I’m positively dumbfounded at the level of random rap shit I’m not up on. Like most of us reared on major label rap, we’re familiar with the Steady B’s, the EST’s, Black Thoughts, Beanies and Freeways of Philly. Who are some of your favourite overlooked Philly MC’s or groups?

Awesome question, you’re really fucking good at this. Ok, so if there is one thing I’m passionate about above all others it’s Philly rap. Particularly the indie side of things that I totally overlooked as a kid. The amount of it is absolutely staggering, coming up I thought I was deep and had a handle on things, cause I knew about the Roots, 100X and Ram Squad. I could literally write a book on this subject now though, so for time’s sake I’m just gonna drop one dudes name who made two of my favorite records.

He’s a buddy of mine who now goes by DJ Nicky But back in the day, he was one of the sickest MC’s in the city and he recorded two records that I’d put up against anything you can think of from the period major or indie. First record was a 12″ under the name 24-7 and the Hoodfellas and the song is called “Let’s Have It” released in ’93. A year later, he released another 12″ under the name The Bang Bang Poet with two tracks: “Unbelievable” and “Here Comes The Bang Bang Poet”. I mention these not only because I like them but because I know that your (Arcee’s) favorite rapper of all time is Black Thought. Listen to these two records and keep in mind that Tariq (Black Thought) is originally is from South Philly. In the early 90’s, before the Roots blew up, Riq was hanging out uptown a lot in the West Oak Lane section of the city where Nicky Butters is from and they would see each other and battle with the vocabulary quite often. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not insinuating that Riq stole anybody’s style but I think the style of rhyming that most people would credit him for is more of an uptown Philly style than anything else, so I’d say his time uptown had a big effect on the style he’d eventually unleash on the world. You’d probably have to be from here to understand it but different sections of the city had their own styles that varied greatly from the next. The West Philly style is the most obvious and easy to tell cause of the huge success of Fresh Prince and the Hilltop crew. I guess New York is the same in that regard with each borough having their own flavor.

Wow. Appreciate the insight. It’s crazy to me that there isn’t a real proper document on Philly rap. The city has such a huge contribution to the culture and it’s still overlooked today. That book is starting more and more to sound like a good idea. Most days I’m out looking at stuff, it’s pretty par for the course. No insane come ups, but some nice deals if you’re looking. But on the odd occasion, the digging gods can be particularly generous. Give us a story behind one of your most epic finds.

I’ve found over the years that your best bet is to just be as consistent as possible. If you’re going to half ass it, you’re never going to get that good haul so when I do something I tend to get religious about it. You can’t just hit that spot every once in awhile, you’ve got to hit it everyday. You have to be there early, be willing to unload trucks bring shit out from the back room – whatever it takes.  All the years I’ve been digging, I never had a big library come up until one day a couple of years ago at a thrift spot I hit daily that honestly doesn’t give up enough to warrant a daily stop but it’s close enough to me so I always try to make the time.  One day I get there right as they open and there is a shopping cart with records sitting in front of the shelves waiting to be put out, normally the cart would be full of Sergio Mendes and Firestone Christmas records but this day the whole thing was library records. Nothing super expensive but it was about forty solid Bruton and Sonoton label titles that were all super clean and for the .75 cents a piece I paid  it was one of the more satisfying grabs of my life. More so because I’d always hoped to luck up on some library in the field and my persistence had finally paid off than anything else.


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