For this week's feature story, we wrote about the impending demise of World Famous V.I.P. Records in Long Beach, which once boasted a dozen branches and was instrumental in the rise of West Coast hip-hop.
Now it's official: the store took down its iconic sign last Monday, Jan. 2, just short of V.I.P.'s 34th anniversary. But the news isn't all bad. Owner Kelvin Anderson and his son Kelvin Jr. say the store will re-open in a smaller location in the same complex off of Pacific Coast Highway in February. The new mini-V.I.P. will house the 30,000 vinyl records Anderson has accumulated over the years and be open to the public — a paradise for crate-diggers. Those records, in addition to V.I.P. merch and memorabilia, will also be available online.
In any case, talking with the Andersons was a trip. Here are our favorite outtakes from the interview, hitting on subjects like Warren G's early days and carpooling with Snoop Dogg.
On his favorite V.I.P. in-store:
Kelvin Jr.: “It was when LL Cool J dropped the Mr. Smith album. He was my favorite artist at the time and I got to meet him. I was kinda star-struck. It was pandemonium — lines down the street and the parking lot was packed. It was a beautiful thing.”
On how he met Snoop Dogg:
Kelvin Jr.: “The impact of the store didn't really dawn on me until I went to school one day, I was about seven, and kids were talking about this Snoop Dogg guy. I said, 'Who?' Didn't make no difference to me. But I found out that day when my dad picked me up from school and Snoop was sitting in the back. It was a little trippy for me.”
On V.I.P.'s legacy:
Kelvin Sr.: “Long Beach has lost a big part of its identity. I've traveled all across the U.S. and the world, and anywhere I go if I ask people to name two places they know in Long Beach. 90% of the time its the Queen Mary and V.I.P. The V.I.P. brand still has value — the music doesn't.”
The long story short about the demo for 213, a group coinsisting of Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg.
Kelvin Sr.: “I bought a new SP1200 drum machine from Guitar Center in Hawthorne for like $2500. I gave it to Jinx and he taught some of the other guys that worked for me how to use it. One of them was Keith Thompson, who back then went by the name of DJ Slice. And he ended up producing half the songs on Snoop's [and 213's] demo tape. Then I shopped it around to the labels, but none of them were interested — to this day I'll never understand that.” [Dr. Dre later signed Snoop based on that demo, however.]
On how Warren G got put on:
Kelvin Sr.: “John Singleton contacted me looking for Dr. Dre to see what he could do for the Poetic Justice soundtrack. I didn't have the number for Dr. Dre, but I'd see Warren, his half-brother, every day riding around the community on his ten-speed. So I asked him. He was still a little mad that Dre signed Snoop, but that he still didn't have a deal. So he told me he had some stuff that he thinks John Singleton would like. I said, let's find out. We gave Singleton a call and what Warren presented 'Indo Smoke.' That's basically how Warren got into the business — if I'd had the number for Dr. Dre, that never would've happened.”
On independent retailers like V.I.P.:
Former label rep Eugene Luckett: “Those in-stores were a way to connect with the community. When we bring those stars in, the communities go nuts. And those type of events would always be magnified by guys like Kelvin; they're father figures in their communities, they've always been there in a positive sense, mentoring local artists about getting into music industry, or from a business or even common sense standpoint. He helped me build artists one fan at a time. I'm losing a valuable partner. A valuable resource is gone. But what V.I.P. contributed to the industry is invaluable.”