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Drop the Needle Doc Digs Beyond Hip-Hop

Legendary Toronto vinyl record store Play De Record is honoured as an invaluable Canadian music hub.

by Maggie McPhee

Eugene Tam immigrated with his family from Trinidad to Toronto in 1981, setting up a record shop in the back of his parent’s convenience store. It’s a part of history that echoes entrepreneur couple Vincent and Patricia Chin’s move to Queens from Jamaica, where they established VP Records and carried the nascent dancehall genre to stardom. Both stories emphasise the influence of Caribbean music culture in the northeastern quadrant of North America, where, in the later part of the 20th century, hip-hop, reggaeton, house, dance, and electronic music would emerge and overhaul our modern soundscape. 

Play De Record, Tam’s vinyl store and contribution to the movement, occupied the nexus of Toronto’s underground music scene throughout the 1990s. On Thursdays and Saturdays, local DJs, radio hosts, and audiophiles would converge at 357A Yonge Street, hunting through Tam’s unusually rare collection in a ritualistic fashion that persisted until the digital age. It was a community base for music lovers to connect, and even though its location has changed, its influence has not. 

Director Rob Freeman’s debut feature film offers an immersive and exhaustive look at the intricacies involved in running a record store in an evolving world. Featuring Kardinal Offishal, Russell Peters, Ron Nelson, Skratch Bastid, Aki Abe, Denise Benson and over 50 other DJs, producers, label and venue owners, MCs and radio pioneers, Drop the Needle is a comprehensive constellation of Toronto’s music scene at the height of a musical revolution. 

Drop the Needle is available on Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Rogers on Demand, Bell on Demand, Shaw on Demand, Telus on Demand, and XBox