Ray West: Studio adventures in The Bronx.
I’ve taken many bus journeys over my 37 years to places far and wide. Seen many sites, some impressive, some not as much. That’s the rich tapestry we call life. Last October I took a bus ride to a birthplace. A place where a culture was born thats both changed and shaped my life along with the world to a greater sense. The Bronx is a breeding ground of talent. Many have been raised in its streets and homes. From humble beginnings to icons of individuality.
This is the place my good friend Ray West dwells. Bronx born and raised since day one. He’s a prime example of a man who’s very essence is enriched with the boroughs almost palatable vibe. He’s an old soul. A man who’s not one driven by ego but of love and a thirst for knowledge. He’s not about financial gain or fame. He’s only concerned with the preservation of culture. The one known as Hip Hop. He met me from the bus next to a Dunkin donuts shop with a handshake and the warmth of friendship. This was the first time we’d met in the physical after a good year or more of conversation via email. It was great to finally meet. We walked to his mothers family home. talking about how my bus ride had been. I told him I didn’t pay. My English-ness had been my charm it seemed.
Upon arrival the home looked like any other. My point of reference for American homes is of course television/film and this fitted the bill. It was nearly Halloween and decorations were out. The street overall looked the part. The my surroundings looked almost familiar to me. The power of the box. We entered the house and weaved our way to the basement. As soon as I entered I was hit with a smell. By no means a bad one. It was a smell of records, a lot of records. Racks upon racks, crates upon crates of vinyl. I was in Aladdin’s cave. It was overwhelming. Collectables and comics were on the walls. Crates of magazines from years go by. It was my Mecca, a place of worship. A cathedral of culture. Ray humble as ever could see my excitement. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop.
The basement runs the length of the house. I followed Ray to the control room. It was full of incredible vintage equipment and classic samplers. Big speakers and yet more records and tapes are around me captivating me. So much to take in fighting for my attention. It’s low lighting gives off an aura. I felt in a place of incredible creativity. I’d never had that feeling before. It was inspiring and enlightening. Making the connection between his music I’ve bought and supported over the years to now being here was humbling. It was a full circle experience. I felt like alice stepping through the looking glass. Ray then showed me the vocal booth. Stepping in to a place where both AG and Kool Keith have spit their vocals was nerve jangling. A real sensory moment. I closed my eyes and heard their lyrics in my head.
With my mind fully blown we went back into the control room. I’d brought Ray 3 45's with me as a gift. He loved them. We played them. I saw from his face as they spun that he was already thinking of ways to flip them. That’s true creativity. He lives it with every sound he creates/manipulates. We talked music and things he was working on. I got to hear some exclusives ahead of time. My mind was blown.
As we chatted we exchanged thoughts. It’s a humbling thing to be asked your opinion/what you think by someone as inspiring as Ray. I guess that’s what makes him the man he is. He’s always open to others thought patterns. He wants to share ideas. We discussed some future projects together locking in ideas. We laughed a lot sharing stories. I also took a piss where legends had before me. Small thing but a crazy one nevertheless.
I took a ton of pictures. Ray encouraged me to do so. I was snap happy I must admit. Everything was perfect to be captured. I think in my own way I was preserving the basement for the future. A visual record. You can see them below. I’m very proud of how they turned out. When I look back at them I’m transported to that moment.
I’m very proud to have been allowed into Ray’s world. It was a real honour. An experience I’ll never forget for as long as I live. I also cemented a friendship that day. Me and Ray chop it up on the regular via text. He’s a big supporter of what I’m doing and me of him.
From the Bronx to Chesterfield, RedApples45 for life.