I went to Fat Beats once, and ended up buying three Percee P albums for $20.

Mind you, Percee wasn’t employed there, nor were any of his CDs on the store’s shelves. Nope, Percee was standing in front of the steps that led up to the store (which is/was, oddly enough, now placed in one of the least hip-hop locales I can think of, but more on that later) pushing off his catalog directly from his Jansport (what’s a North Face?). As I was walking down the block he recognized me from when we spoke at Rock The Bells a few months prior, and I was inexplicably compelled to buy his albums.

Good luck trying to get me to buy your anything nowadays, aspiring rapsters.

Anyways, Percee P was Fat Beats in the flesh: a hip hop entity that made a living through an independent state of mind. With the physical stores set to close its doors before the end of September, it marks the end of an era of a self-sufficient form of music distribution that first started as an alternative to the major label doldrums, erupted into popularity during the Rawkus era and struggled to survive during the digital turnover before finally deciding to cease operations at its physical locations.

We shouldn’t be surprised at Fat Beats pulling the plug on its stores; it’s been happening for years now, from labels shutting down all the way to major record stores kicking the bucket. Hell, I can’t even tell you the last time a saw a Wherehouse store in Los Angeles, and New York City is peppered with empty shells that used to be Tower Records shops. Various variables can be attributed to its demise, from competition from the Best Buys and Targets of the world selling the same music at much lower costs, to constantly rising price of their own CDs to keep up.

It’s much cheaper to keep things at a digital level as well, which is what Fat Beats – now calling itself FB Distribution – is planning on doing. iTunes is now outpointing virtually all physical sales in nearly every aspect of the music game and, well, sites like BandCamp and *ahem* mine are making things (unfortunately?) easier for any ol’ rapster to push off their wares. Still, there’s nothing quite like being in an actual store, with it’s promotional paraphernalia, deejays and general atmosphere being something no digital store could ever duplicate.

I’ll miss Fat Beats, especially because I was never able to find that More Fish promotional t-shirt in my size (random, but I’m actually being serious). Hopefully Percee P will find a place to push off his products as well.