The Purist of Daupe! Talks About His Label and Its Hard to Find Records
With the onslaught of new hip hop music available every day through SoundCloud, Spotify or one of the many other streaming services, sometimes you want to slow it down a second and hold an actual record in your hands.
And for modern hip hop collectors, one name that stands out is Daupe!, a UK label whose catalog includes Westside Gunn, Conway, Your Old Droog, Sonny Jim and more. Since 2012, Daupe! has put out new music or created vinyl versions of digital releases from some of the best undergrounds rap acts out there, all with exquisite art direction and top grade product.
Unfortunately, Daupe! records are nearly impossible to get firsthand. They only pressed up to 230 copies of Gunn’s Flygod and of course it sold out in less than a minute. And on the resale scene, things are even crazier. Westside Gunn’s 2015 project, Hitler Wears Hermes 2 got a special Obi Strip release where only 20 copies were made, then one sold for nearly $1000 on eBay.
MASS APPEAL called up UK-based producer The Purist, the man behind the label, while he was chilling at a pool to beat his country’s current heatwave, to learn what makes a Daupe! record.
When you launched Daupe!, did you think your releases would be so in demand?
From day one, everything sold out pretty quickly. The first 7-inch we put out was with Action Bronson and Roc Marciano, and that sold out in about 10 to 12 hours. So there is always the intention to make things sought after, maybe not to the degree it has become, but to keep it high quality.
Aside from running the label, who are some artists you’ve worked with as a producer?
There’s Action Bronson (who I worked with very early in his career), Danny Brown, Freddie Gibbs, Mick Jenkins. I did a lot of work with Roc Marciano, a guy I rate very highly. Over here in the UK I worked with Loyle Carner, who’s doing very well, did a big part of his album which just came out. Then a guy called CASisDEAD who is very cult in the grime scene.
What made you want to start a record label?
A major part of it was seeing how the other labels were acting: not giving people good deals, not giving the artist a decent revenue split and also delivering a very weak product in terms of vinyl and CDs. I always wanted my albums to come out and look nice. I found that majors and the large indies weren’t doing that. They were thinking of the bottom dollar and delivering a real suspect package. I thought that I could do a better job myself. There’re also a lot of people going under the radar, like Tree, whose album I just put out. I thought Sunday School 2 was amazing, so I said, you know what, let’s give him the vinyl treatment and do it properly.
What makes a Daupe! Record so special in terms of quality?
It starts with the artists and their music, and then it comes to the artwork. We don’t skimp with the artwork. The cover photo has to be great and impactful. Our art director, Mr.Krum, is a classically trained guy in terms of art, and a hip hop head. So his work with me combined, we just sit there for hours and hours and make a very pristine product. It’s about making a quality product, like Givenchy, Balenciaga or Gucci.
With the limited edition, 20 copy run Obi Strip records, can you explain the significance of that term?
I used to go digging in Japan looking for records to sample and I always noticed on the European and Western records that there would always be a translation strip. So there was this shop in Japan called Jet Set and we were sending them 20 or 30 copies [of Daupe! releases]. I thought a good way to thank them for their business would be to make the Obi Strips like the old style records. After three or four releases, they became really sought after, so we just ended up selling them ourselves.
How did you even find Action Bronson or Westside Gunn before everyone else?
With Bronson I saw “Shiraz” and that was it. I emailed him and told him that we had to work together. And people were telling me that it wouldn’t work, but I knew it would. With Gunn it was a similar thing. I saw Nickel City Blend and within four bars I knew this guy was the future. I hadn’t even heard of Conway at that point. It was just the internet.
How did you develop a relationship with Gunn?
Originally when we first found him I was recording my album, Pyrex Scholar, and on that we had Your Old Droog and Freddie Gibbs, so I reached out to Gunn to do a feature. We built a working relationship, so when Hitler Wears Hermes 2 dropped, I went to back him and put it on vinyl because it was amazing. It deserved to be on vinyl, it was the sort of music that is built for vinyl.
What makes a Daupe! artist?
Just quality. Prodigy passed away two days ago and he’s a good example of a person who made high quality rap music. You know it when you see it.
Who’s up next?
I’m not sure if I can give away the formula man. The last person I saw who I tried to reach was Kadhja Bonet. She’s not a rapper, but a singer, and that is next level music. And like I said before, CASisDEAD is next, he is incredible.
Which release has sold the fastest?
It’s hard to say, I think everything since Roses are Red…So is Blood has gone in like one minute or 30 seconds.
What are your thoughts on the resale market?
It’s a free world. In an ideal world it wouldn’t happen. I mean, it happens with everything: Supreme, concert tickets, anything that people will buy and try and resell. There is not a great deal you can do about it.
The vinyl retails for £25. If they are so sought after, why wouldn’t you sell them for more?
I think it’s a bit tacky. I suppose we could. The records are not cheap or expensive, they are in the middle. I mean, we could do it, but I want the people to have the music. I want the artists to get paid. That’s all that matters. Also we’re in England, so if someone is paying for shipping to the U.S., we can’t have a crazy price.
What are the plans for Daupe! in the future?
Just to keep giving a platform for artists who are under the radar. Now it looks like some crazy label with Action Bronson, Danny Brown and Westside Gunn, but when all of these people were signed, they weren’t famous. So to keep giving people a platform, and as a label grows, it becomes more powerful and gives people a bigger jumpstart.