Matt Nelkin is a vinyl junkie and an avowed loyalist of hip-hop's golden age. But that doesn't mean he's a hopeless nostalgist.
"I don't want to just dwell in that period," he says. "There's that propped-up myth of the person who's only into retro music, and I don't want to be in that space creatively or emotionally."
It's a sentiment embedded in the motto of Liquid Beat Records, which Nelkin has run in Portland since 2011: "Informed by the past, with an eye towards the future." While the label's production aesthetic hums with analog warmth and a deep appreciation for classic rap, funk, soul and disco, it's cut with a distinctly modern edge.
With Liquid Beat celebrating its latest release, the Street Player EP, featuring contributions from all three of its main producers, we asked Nelkin about the favorite records he's put out so far.
Libretto, "Ride to Dat" feat. Guilty Simpson 12-inch
It's the release that started things off for Liquid Beat. While the A-side is obviously great and was the attention-grabber due to the Guilty Simpson feature, I always thought the Wolveryne-produced B-side track, "Da Bump!" was an overlooked sure shot.
Reva DeVito and Roane Namuh, Cloudshine Deluxe
There is a real magic to the chemistry between these two. The songs flow so naturally it feels like they just exist effortlessly. I think when it's all said and done, Cloudshine Deluxe will go down as a classic underground R&B album.
HOT16, "Rhythm" 7-inch
Initially, HOT16 had a great demo of the beat. We recruited Farnell Newton to play horns, DeAngelo Raines to play guitar and Spencer Finnan to play keys. HOT16 then did an absolutely amazing job chopping those elements up, to make a song that feels new but whose influences are instantly recognizable.
Libretto, Gangsta Jazz Vol. 2
It's a concept album using just jazz loops as the musical background. It is also Libretto's first project since being released from prison. The topics he raps about, and the nuanced way he does so, are incredible. Throughout the album, there are a wealth of really amazing insights and vividly painted pictures that come straight from Libretto's lived experiences.
Various Artists, Street Player EP
Our latest release and the only release (so far) that features all of the Liquid Beat producers we work with—HOT16, Roane Namuh and DaiN. The EP features four unique covers of the disco classic "Street Player" by Rufus. We wanted to make something a DJ would love to keep in their record bag for every occasion. There is something really gratifying about executing your vision from inception to completion, and this project represents that.
SEE IT: The Street Player release party, with Roane Namuh, HOT16, Matt Nelkin and DaiN, is at Valentines, 232 SW Ankeny St., on Friday, Sept. 30. 9 pm. Free. 21+.