Welcome to Fondle Em Records: Bobbito’s seminal contribution to the history of Hip-Hop.
For the few among you who don’t know, Fondle ‘Em Records was the name of one the most prominent independent hip hop labels of its time. It was created, owned, and operated by NY radio personality/host/deejay/sneaker-freak/underground hip-hop mogul Bobbito Garcia.
Everything started back in New York (where else?!) in 1995, almost as a joke, when Bobbito was trying to create supporting material for his Bobbito & Stretch Armstrong radio show (check the Internets for the whole trivia). With a discography comprised of a bit less than forty releases, the label was ended in 2001.
In such a short stint, a small record company added unforgettable bricks in the wall of the so-called independent hip hop, while at the same time launching the careers of artists such as the late, great MF Doom (R.I.P., Metal Face, we’ll miss you…) and The Arsonists, alongside legends on their own such as MF Grimm and Cage (that same Cage later known as a Def Jux Records herald, yep), just to name a few.
Born as a joke, Fondle Em Records was “one of the most compelling underground hip-hop labels“…
That’s exactly what the hip-hop journalist Brian Coleman said about Bobbito’s brainchild, for the record.
In the late Nineties, the New York radio host gave to many underground artists exactly what they needed: a chance to have a record deal on his Fondle ‘Em label, and shine through it.
As a very well industry-connected guy and one of the greatest hip-hop promoters of his era, Bobbito made his artists’ roster visible. As an outcome, with some of these artists at least, he left some memorable pages in the history of what was once known as underground hip-hop.
Projects like The Juggaknots’ own Clear Blue Skiesseminal first LP, or MF DOOM early twelve inches, after his character-change from the KMD’s era, wouldn’t have been recorded if it wasn’t for Bobbito Garcia and his expertise and intuition.
Something similar could be said for The Cenobites a.k.a. Godfather Don and Kool Keith, whose sole album as a duo could have proved too contorted and irksome to manage for an average hip-hop label back in 1995, but was the jumpstart for Bobbito.
…it gave birth to something like “an underground cult”.
For all the above reasons, as one of the pillars of StrettoBlaster, discussing Fondle Em our man FF stated that “other than a simple “indie hip-hop label”, Fondle Em Records has more of an underground cult than anything else. It championed an artistic vision and integrity straight from the down under, showing authentic appreciation for the hip-hop culture pouring out the heart of NYC in the mid to late 90s“.
That’s probably because, as Stromberg, The Host points out, it was “ (…) quality over quantity, as the records were made for fun instead of money only, pressed in limited quantities too, in a time when the mainstream industry was already piling up millions, and crunching incredible numbers“.
The epitome of the underground hip-hop mentality.
So, heralding the kind of mentality that was slowly dying back then, the label was concentrated on hip-hop as a real culture and pure research. Fondle Em Records wasn’t exactly interested in releasing products tailormade on the average consumers’ gusto – while prompting and enhancing that exact average taste, in a downward spiral- which was (and still is) the inevitable ending point of every industrial production of music.
On a more personal note, we want to underline that every label that boasts the presence of Yeshua DapoEd in its roster is worth being revered eternally.
Jokes aside, it was the epitome of the same mentality that others trailblazed at the same time, something comparable to Rawkus, but probably rawer and, in a sense, even more authentic.
A Fondle Em Records Tribute Mix: The Blast Podcast #131
A compilation by TwoMave & Concrete Jungle
01 Flossin – Y@k Ballz
02 Truly Gifted Ones – Dj Eli & Shan Boogs feat. J Treds, Pumpkinhead, Yeshua Dapo Ed
03 Rocket Science – MHz feat. Jakki The Mota Mouth
04 Do It For The Kids – M.F. Grimm
05 Widespread – Jakki the Mota Mouth feat. Copywrite
06 Blazetha Breaks – Cashless Society feat. Black Intellect, Snaz, X-Amount
07 Haagen-Daz – The Boulevard Connection feat. El Da Sensei, Tame 1, Dj Kaos
08 Make It Happen – J-Treds
09 Repetition – Siah
10 Greenbacks – M.F. Doom feat. Megalon
11 World Premiere – MHz
12 Radiohead – Cage