Soul Strut 100
"I started a thread asking users ‘Which albums do you think have been the most influential on Soul Strut?’ Some listed personal favourites they first heard about on the forum while others listed the albums most talked about in memorable threads. I went through it, picked two or three hundred of the nominations, presented it as a poll to forum regulars and then calculated the results. The majority are great albums members found out about via the site while others are linked to long-running themes in the community. The key point is the Soul Strut 100 reflects the life of the Soul Strut forum."
Rick Smith (RAJ): Soul Strut founder: September 2013
2013 will go down in the history of record collecting as the year in which members of Soul Strut and Waxidermy, two major internet music forums devoted to crate digging, took time out from talking obssessively about their latest finds to reflect upon their respective musical legacies. This reflection manifested itself as collective nostalgia collated by poll.
Waxidermy’s own seven-year itch was directly influenced by Soul Strut’s 14-year one. The joint scratching fruitfully created two very interesting canons of record pron to savour. Perusing both provides a fascinating overview of shifting tastes in record collecting in the 90s and 00s, refreshingly different to the predictable canons of LPs by known artists endlessly recycled by out-of-step mainstream music magazines.
The Soul Strut Poll
Soul Strut’s own stock take began life as a minor lament in February 2013 when founder Rick Smith observed there had been a slow and steady decline in the number of members posting and suggested the time may be fast approaching to bring the forum to a graceful close.
The Soul Strut poll had been initiated a few months prior to this with falling post count very much in mind. The forum was immediately deluged with unanimous pleas for the site to remain in cyberspace. Testimonies flowed from members expressing what the site had meant to them over the years and recalling high times, humour, emoticons, flame wars, animated gifs, Leo Sayer, Stark Reality and Mingering Mike.
It’s possible Rick was unaware that Soul Strut’s quieter showing was a pattern repeating itself on forums all over the internet and not just on music-based ones.
Browsing time is finite. Members get older and have young families. Newer, time-consuming social media like Facebook and Twitter which were not around when chat forums started ripped bite-sized chunks from surfers and surfing time. Other music-related sites were having an effect too. Pitchfork, Red Bull Music Academy, blogs, YouTube, Discogs and 45CAT did not exist when Soul Strut was born.
The bigger picture is that compared to many other forums, Soul Strut was thriving, albeit not as fast and furiously as it was a few years ago.
The Birth of Soul Strut
In August 2013 Forumusic was delighted to chat briefly to Rick about Soul Strut from its inception to now and the changes that have taken place in the intervening years. At a later date we’ll publish his thoughts on the Soul Strut 100 illustrated here from number one Stark Reality at the top of the page down to Jr & His Soulettes at the bottom.
" In the 90s I bought a Sub Pop CD with a command line web address on it and I had absolutely no idea what it was ! I was in a couple of college bands including one called Marauders and the lead singer was a computer science major. In 1997 he taught me about HTML and FTP and although everything back then was pretty crude and strictly coding I found it absolutely fascinating and together we built a website for the band.
In 1999 the internet was like a new frontier or the Wild West. I was really into Hip Hop, the roots of it and sampling and at college I would go out digging and get really excited at finding even the most common sample records. I joined a list serve email group called The Crates List and that partly influenced me to start Soul Strut.
Another inspiration was a fantastic online music magazine with lots of great reviews called Wall Of Sound which featured regular contributions from Oliver Wang (O-dub) who went on to frequent the Soul Strut message boards . Back in the late 90s Underground Hip Hop.com was cutting edge too with music clips and chat rooms. Blaxploitation.com was cool too and checking back now it still looks good.
I geared Soul Strut towards crate-digging, starting the website in 1999 and adding the forum later. I was a journalism major and because I was really into the Hip Hop scene I interviewed a lot of groups and would post them up on the site.
That alone was a lot of work and I liked the idea of starting something that would run itself and create a community. It was slow for a couple of years but really took off around 2001 when the Crates List dissipated and a number of people migrated over to Soul Strut.
You have to remember these were the early days before you could search on Google, go on a blog and download a whole album. Ten years ago information about records was precious. You’d see a great looking album in a record store but not know if there was a drum break or a sample on it so knowledge only came from passing on what you knew to other people and them sharing information with you.
Information was valuable when looking for records for sampling or DJ-ing. Motown 67 came from the Crates List and he'd write record reviews of various obscure and not so obscure records. I’d put them on the site for people to use as a reference and to help them when they went out digging.
When Soul Strut started out the technology for posting up sound clips was only just evolving and a lot of good stuff hadn’t been reissued either. Now of course websites like Whosampled? list every sample on every record that’s ever been released.
Soul Strut Community
A great thing about Soul Strut in the early days around 2004/5 was the enormous amount of talent on the forum. People putting out their own independent 45s wouldn’t have to use any other channels because they would sell a run out just from other members buying copies.
The Piecelock 70 record label which was started by Thes One from People Under The Stairs found a lot of talent on the Strut.
Recently they put out a record Land Of A 1000 Chances by regular member Day that’s getting a lot of good press. The YouTube video already has over 160, 000 hits. The fact these people started out on Soul Strut is great.
Socially things have quietened a little since Facebook but there have been Soul Strut nights in Germany; a ‘breakface’ night in New York City and I know a whole bunch of Strutters from the UK still occasionally get together to play records in a pub.
I had a big party for my 33rd birthday in New York. People came from Boston and all kinds of places. I never got heavily involved to the point where I’d try to organise stuff but people have taken it upon themselves to do it which I think is awesome.
I can’t tell you how many people have sent me private messages and emails just thanking me for the site and how thankful they are for meeting so many amazing people who have become lifelong friends.
Music forums today
I think when a forum becomes too popular it gets convoluted and people want different things. With Soul Strut there’s constant ebb and flow and sometimes people just don’t feel at home anymore and leave. As the web developed a lot of people moved to broader social media or their own blogs and websites.
Waxidermy was started by people who were originally on Soul Strut and wanted something different. Back when it started Soul Strut was a one-stop for all kinds of record collectors but some weren’t getting enough of what they liked to talk about so started their own.
Soul Strut has been around for almost fifteen years and if people want to come and stay it’s great but if they want to go and do their own thing I’m cool with that too. It is what it is. I still love the whole forum concept and the fact that you can just be a user name and express yourself without the whole Facebook thing about who you are and what you’re doing. I don’t even have a Facebook account anymore!
Soul Strut has such history and breadth within the threads that to me it’s more like an archive. We had one board crash but threads from 2005 are still there for anyone to find and read.
It’s a fraternity of like-minded people and a certain type of person finds the site and wants to be a part of it.
Soul Strut's Legacy
Soul Strut has resuscitated the careers of a number of artists because people found their records and talked about them. Word spreads fast and some ended up getting reissued and finding a spotlight that had escaped them first time round. Suddenly it’s like ground zero for them and that’s something I’ve always loved about the site. The Mingering Mike story is a good example of that.
A friend of mine on the forum found those records and now they’re going to be in the Smithsonian Institute forever. It’s unbelievable to me that it all started on Soul Strut!
A couple of forum regulars came across these crates of records with hand drawn covers by an artist name Mingering Mike. It turns out he was behind on his storage unit payments and the contents were auctioned off. The albums were then sold at a Washington DC area flea market where they bought them and posted their finds on Soul Strut. The albums sleeves were folk art renditions of classic Blaxploitation soundtracks of the 70s featuring the imaginary artist Mingering Mike. The posts on Soul Strut went viral and eventually they tracked Mike down and brought his work to the masses.
Another example is Monty Stark. In the early days people would talk a lot about the Stark Reality LP and Monty eventually found his way to our site via a search and ended up talking all about it on the board. Eventually the LP was picked up by Stones Throw and they reissued it. I’d give a lot of credit to the Soul Strut community for that one too.
It's a tough one to explain to people who've never been on the forum (laughs) but here goes...
Someone came onto Soul Strut one day asking about good records with breaks and a bunch of guys took it upon themselves to say that Leo Sayer record had incredible drum breaks on it. It’s a funny cover anyway with Leo and his Afro hair style jumping through clouds and so forth and the inside joke started right there.
Anyone new to the site and wanting to know more about breaks and samples would see this record, hear everyone talking about it and some would actually go out and buy it! It got to the point where regular members would just post up a picture or animated gif of the Leo Sayer album any time a new poster came along asking for the identity of any sample."
Check out the Soul Strut Community
Ian Townsend / January 2014
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