The Crate Files Episode 1: Isaac Hayes & Onyx

One of the simplest pleasures in my life is record digging. In a world where the physical joys of mining for musical gems have been replaced by the overt convenience of using apps and streaming, I find it comforting flipping through the vinyl at mom & pop shops.

I especially glean particular happiness in finding samples from eras past that helped to influence or serve as the backbone for others records I love from ages past. I love the discovery process, I love the rabbit holes it sends me on, and I love falling in love with songs I may have forgotten about all over again.

With COVID-19 essentially taking this away from me, I was ecstatic when my local shop — following all possible precautions — opened again recently. 

It’s a second-hand spot, and each Tuesday, a regional collector and former multi-location record store owner drops by and removes all the records on the shelf and replaces them with a completely new batch. So, it’s like the first of the month for the diggers in my city.

I’ve been sharing my finds via Instagram for the past year or so, but I thought there was an opportunity to give more context and maybe entice some younger diggers to keep the art alive. So, here goes part one of, well, many.

Episode 1

On a dig last month, I came upon an Isaac Hayes LP that I hadn’t heard of, And Once Again. I generally grab anything with Isaac’s name on it when I’m going through crates, but was confused as to why I hadn’t come across this one before.

This was his fifteenth LP and — like most of his late 70s to early 80s run (I’m learning) — it’s gotten lost in the shuffle of time. 

Although it appears to have been successful, peaking at No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 200 in 1980 when it dropped, I wasn’t blown away at first spin. It has the vibe of his Black Moses LP, but not quite as gripping, to me anyway. That was until I hit “Wherever You Are.” 

The song’s intro has appeared in a few low-key bangers over the years. “Broken” by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib (off Piñata) is one, and my fav song off of Carl Thomas’ Bad Boy debut LPGiving You All My Love” being another. 

But neither of these even come close to “Live Niguz” by Southside Jamaica Queens legends, ONYX. Not only did the song appear on their sophomore LP, All We Got Iz Us, but it also — more notably to be — was a single from the soundtrack of The Show (an often forgotten Def Jam documentary).

Back in 1995, this soundtrack was everything — also playing home to the iconic single “How High” by Redman and Method Man. 

This one has been slept on as time has gone on … it was one of the trio’s least successful singles during their first iteration (and really, commercial apex); it became their first single not to reach the Billboard Hot 100. 

It was also produced by Fredro Starr, which is a delightful little pop-up video. 

For those who maybe aren’t aware, Fredro is credited with producing a large portion of this LP, including some of (in my opinion) their most essential joints — like “Last Dayz,” “Walk In New York” and the title track. Not to mention other songs on later projects, like the OG album version of “Shut ‘Em Down.” He needs his roses, but I digress.

Definitely a great come up for my collection. Check out Isaac Haye’s “Wherever You Are” and a playlist of the songs mentioned in the article below.

Riley About Author

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns