With new releases from Tupac, Nas, Ghostface Killah and plenty of others, 1996 was a strong year for hip-hop. But one August day at the grand opening party of New York City’s Fat Beats record store, which had just upgraded from its 9th Street basement space into a 2nd floor location on 6th Avenue, a young, 19-year-old Kanye West gave the crowd a taste of who would become the face the genre nearly 20 years later.
Rocking a ‘stache and rapping about Alanis Morissette, West at the time was just a kid from Chicago trying to get respect in the underground rap scene. As a testimony to that, Fat Beats owner DJ Eclipse just unearthed this nearly two-minute long video of a teenage ‘Ye showing his now-trademark focus and poise, and tossed it up on YouTube.
“August 1996 (day?) was the grand opening of the 406 6th Avenue location,” Eclipse writes. “It was also the beginnings of our independent movement which had recently started bubbling about a year before. Yesterday I started converting old Hi8 video tapes to DVD and came across some interesting footage from that day.”
He adds: “Now we had a lot of the usual suspects in the place that day such as ILL BILL, Arsonists, Lord Finesse, Adagio, Breeze Brewin, A.L. Skills, Percee P, J-Live, Mr. Live, Chino XL, Al Tariq, Black Attack, Xzibit, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Rawcotiks, Ak Skills, Rob Swift, Roc Raida, DJ Spinna and many, many more. But what took me by surprise was the appearance of this 19 year old kid who at that time nobody knew. Now I’ve had this person as a guest on my radio show years later, but it’s pretty crazy to see this footage in ’96 and think “damn, this dude was in my house then?” and not even know. More to come….”