You can tell a whole lot about a person from the music they’re passionate about. The world’s largest independent music store, Amoeba Music, surely had this in mind when they mad genius whipped up the idea for their Webby Award-winning series “What’s In My Bag?” where they ask everyone from Big Boi to Toro y Moi to director Gregg Araki what they picked up after shopping the endless racks of Amoeba. (In case you were wondering, yes, Big Boi copped a live Kate Bush album and of course Gregg got some shoegaze—Airiel’s first studio album to be exact.)
“I shop here faithfully… You know what Amoeba is—it’s home. This is my safe place.” -DJ Quik
Since Amoeba has an ever-changing, super diverse, and huge stock of vinyl, CDs, and cassettes in genres from experimental underground black metal to Top 40 R&B, the “What’s In My Bag?” series is a real joy to watch for music heads. For instance, members of post-punk outfit Gang of Four get Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (“I like the fact that he annoys everybody,” says vocalist Jon King), Mos Def grabs a copy of Madlib’s WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip and a Cold War Kids album, and King Krule cops a classic Donny Hathaway release. There are some utterly surprising ones, like John Grisham from T.S.O.L cueing up some Jack Johnson, and we find out in Earl Sweatshirt & Samiyam’s episode that they’re both obsessed with The Residents. Since Amoeba also has an unmatched selection of DVDs, books, and even VHS tapes, episodes like Chuck D‘s has him getting a The Illustrated History of Rock Album Art book and a Midnight Special DVD collection (which DJ Quik also got for the kids).
In light of our upcoming collaboration with our favorite store ever, Amoeba Music, we rounded up a handful of our FAVORITE episodes ever for you to nerd out on.
Earl Sweatshirt & Samiyam
This episode gave us everything we love about a good “What’s In My Bag?”. Who knew Earl Sweatshirt and Samiyam were huge The Residents fans?!?! Earl calls the avant-garde collective “good food for your sampler.” The two picked up three Residents albums and five ridiculous horror flicks, including Mad Cow and Redneck Zombies, described on Wikipedia as a “1987 American horror comedy trash film.” Additionally, they got a Brazilian jazz fusion album by Flora Purim and Earl got Todd Rundgren’s The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect. “The man Todd. Hit Factory. Weirdo. He’s always a go,” says Earl. EARL SWEATSHIRT LOVES TODD RUNDGREN? Earl also gets an Andraé Crouch gospel record because Knxlwedge put him on to it.
We’re just gonna quote one of the Youtube comments on this and say: “This is one of the best fucking videos ever in human history.” Ariel loves Pentagram. He loves weird organ music “adapted from bird songs.” He picks up a Can boxset. He fucking loves Mexican narcocorrido (drug ballad) singer Chalino Sanchez, who reminds him of Bob Dylan (“He has a really raw voice… you can just hear that he’s got a lot of pain”), and calls his band “the Velvet Underground of corridos,” then proceeds to tell us Chalino’s life story. It’s… incredible. He has the range!
Big Boi’s unabashed obsession with Kate Bush gives us absolute life. In this episode, he riffs on how amazing our favorite ’80s queen is (“I went to this show in London and it was one of the greatest concerts—it’s not even a concert, I would say it was a presentation of excellence. It was a play.”), then grabs a copy of Before the Dawn, her live album. He picks up two Michael Jackson classics and gets funky with Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop and Maggot Brain: “That guitar has so much feeling. If that don’t strike a chord in the middle part of your chakra then you must be an alien or something.”
The prolific Compton legend gives us a real music lesson in his “What’s In My Bag?” segment, explaining that back in the day DJs never wanted anyone to know what they bought so their sample/style wouldn’t get ripped first. He cops some David Grusin (one of his favorite contemporary jazz composers), Millie Jackson (his mom showed him her ‘rated XXX’ music), and a Midnight Special DVD collection to show his kids. DJ Quik snags a copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, saying, “This is high art. I can’t seem to keep it in my collection, it always gets stolen.” He even gets a Katt Williams stand up release to sample for comic relief.
Our favorite Los Angeles band came correct with this one, retracing a lineage of music that truly was a nod to what it feels like growing up with and listening to music post-internet (no pun intended). From Matt Martians’s Of Montreal pick (Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer) that he calls “another 10 out of 10, like flawless” to Syd’s cop of an Erykah Badu classic, Baduism, every member of the band showcased a diverse range of interests here that give hints to the influential magic behind their sound. Christopher Smith got a Samurai Champloo soundtrack (!!!) and Patrick Paige II says one of his favorite bands of all time is… *drumroll please*… Korn. Steve Lacy got a copy of Salad Days by Mac Demarco, admitting that “a lot of [his] songs are inspired by this guy” and the “What’s In My Bag?” editors cut in a perfectly surreal clip of people moshing to Mac’s music at 3:38 after Steve describes a weird concert experience. Syd and the guys talk about the modern classic that is Love Hate by The-Dream, and how they’ve seen some crazy lap dances to “Falsetto.”
1. We love how Grimes says “bag,” and 2. we love this episode because it reminds us of everything we appreciate about Grimes and how she embraces high and low culture/art, from Canadian industrial band Skinny Puppy to pop queen Madonna. “I feel like Justin Bieber is really under appreciated,” she says, holding up his Never Say Never DVD, “He comes off as a bit of an asshole but it makes you appreciate Justin Bieber ’cause he’s not just a product of the machine, you know. He’s a real musician.” We learn that she hates ambient (but Balam Acab’s Wander Wonder makes her cry); Travis Barker was her first love, and Blink-182 was—absurdly-but-also-not—her first “introduction to punk”; and one of her favorite hip-hop groups is Jedi Mind Tricks (she says “one of the best records in the world” is The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological, and Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness). How Grimes is it that she picks up a t.A.T.u. All The Things She Said Remixes on vinyl for $1.99? Gotta love Amoeba.
“This has nothing to do with music, but [Richard Pryor] kind of helped me get through my childhood a little bit. He kind of gave us the go ahead to be what we wanted to be,” says the world famous funk legend Bootsy Collins. In this episode, he hangs out with DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba! (also a former Amoeba employee!) and pays tribute to all the artists that influenced him throughout the years, especially ones who taught him how to be a better musician (would you have ever guessed that watching Rick Nelson is how he learned to play guitar?). Watching this feels like church—it’s evident that Bootsy connects with these albums on a truly spiritual level. Here’s a few of our favorite soundbites below:
Howlin’ Wolf – The Best of Howlin Wolf: “He meant every minute of it.”
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly: “This album represented a change that was going on in our community.”
Sam Cooke – The Singles Collection: “Whatever it was they were feeling, it just came out like that.”
Wilson Pickett – The Best of Wilson Pickett Vol. II: “All of that stuff was just so raw and so real… As far as I was concerned, that was it—music was it. These cats that were doing stuff like Wilson and Otis [Redding], they gave us a chance to be highlighted… oh man.”
The Meters – Here Comes the Meter Man: “These boys were too funky for their own good.”
The coolest, weirdest, funniest cat ever. This episode is a blessing. Our favorite Youtube comment on this vid encapsulates our feelings completely: “Thundercat Lowkey Mf Dooms supergood twin.” His picks are straight up inspirational, from super cheesy ’80s pop to a stoic military ballad single. Thundercat grabs a favorite of ours, Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma and reveals that working with him feels like ESP and Adventure Time. Before grabbing a legendary Sonny Chiba DVD collection (“It’s just a whole night of fist and blood”), he says that teen sci-fi Chronicle is one of his favorite films and says, “I’m gonna learn the entire movie verbatim, and never be able to quote it to anybody, ever, because it’s not funny.”
Martin Lawrence – Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat: “I had an epiphany about Martin the other day and I said to myself, ‘You know, the more I watch Martin, I think I mature a little more inside every time’… and then I don’t.”
A perfect example of Amoeba Music as a cultural institution and not just a record store. Music lovers talking about why they love music is music to our ears. Canadian quartet BadBadNotGood has the range here, and some of the best picks: Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, MF DOOM’s Mm…Food?, Arthur Russell’s The World of Arthur Russell, mega-weirdo Gary Wilson’s You Think You Really Know Me, NxWorries’s Yes Lawd!. From Andy Shauf to Aretha Franklin. They also pay respects to legendary producer/musician Kashif (RIP) and pick up two In Your Eyes-named albums.
Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover’s picks perfectly reflect the range of music and DVDs a multi-talented modern-day Renaissance man/woman could cop at Amoeba. It’s not our absolute favorite episode but it gives us a little peek inside his head. He cops an Italian prog-rock horror soundtrack, Wreck-It Ralph, Menahan Street Band’s Make the Road by Walking (“It’s a great album to sample”), and a Dick Hyman Moog record on vinyl (by the way, Donald, it’s MOGUE, not Moo-g!!). Just like Big Boi, he pays tribute to Funkadelic and picks up Maggot Brain, and admits that although it’s one of favorite albums ever, it used to give him nightmares.
Watch all episodes of “What’s In My Bag?” here on Amoeba’s website. They’ve got a nifty player where you can see each artist’s available music and film picks on the right side of the video as you watch it.