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Baker's Dozen

Irrepressible Discoveries: James Lavelle Of UNKLE's 13 Favourite Albums
Elizabeth Aubrey , September 18th, 2017 14:19

With a new album on the way and a much-anticipated set at Brighton's Attenborough Centre at the ready, James Lavelle, the man behind UNKLE and Mo' Wax, takes Elizabeth Aubrey through the 13 records that shaped him


A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

I was really into Red Alert. Red Alert Productions was a DJ. His nephew was Baby Bambaataa from the Jungle Brothers. They started the Native Tongues. My manager managed Monie Love who went off and had a relationship with Jungle Brother—with Baby Bambaataa, De La Soul, you know. They've gone out with 3 Feet High and Rising, Black Sheep, all this stuff, this community of hip hop artists that I was obsessed with.

I liked the first Tribe Called Quest album. But I was working [at] Honest Jon’s, and I remember the day that record came out. You used to have vans that would come around – you'd get American imports off the vans – so you'd get vinyl, CDs, that were being released in America but they weren't being released domestically. We got Low End Theory, put it on, and it was a bit like hearing Blue Lines.

To me, it's my favourite hip hop album of all time. The moment it came on, the lyrics [were incredible]: “back in the day when I was a teenager/before I had status and before I had a pager...” It was just the perfect hip hop album. And hip hop albums up to that point hadn’t always been great as albums. It was the Sgt. Pepper of hip hop records at the time.

I was in Bar Rumba, I was DJ-ing with Gilles Peterson then, you know, that was the sort period when things were really starting to happen for me. And Mo’ Wax was about to start and all that stuff.

Because I had friends in New York and Mo’ Wax had become quite global…my thing at Honest Jon’s was that I was a total blagger! I managed to get all the hip hop promos and I was one of the main guys in London to get all of the promos. Me and Westwood would get everything. And I’d trade off that – I'd sell those records or swap them and get other collectible records. And I built a thing for that. My community was very, very hip hop-oriented at that time.