Interview: The Vinyl Collective Podcast

Our first addition to our new Croydon Creators website feature is The Vinyl Collective Podcast, a weekly roundtable music discussion hosted by Uni mates Tope Sadiq and Jonathan Reynolds. Officially debuting in October of this year, The Vinyl Collective Pod has stayed on top of some of the biggest Hip Hop/R&B releases in 2020 and recently teased their AOTY wrap up.

The Collective sat down with ASBO and answered in full transparency, their beginnings, insights on contemporary music and some of their favourite projects this year.

When did you guys first realise that you loved music more than the average person?

Jon: I got into music late compared to a lot of people, I only started really listening to music when I got to university. In my childhood, I don’t really recount much music being played in the house. In my second and third year, I moved into a house with Tope and some other guys and realised we had a lot of the same music tastes. We started recommending each other music, sometimes I would hear Tope blasting his little vinyl player at 1 am [laughs]. Everyday we would discover as much music as possible and just got obsessed.

Tope: When I was younger I always liked music, but I liked what was in front of me more than I liked music. Growing up and waiting for Kanye, J. Cole & Jay releases there was a social aspect to it like, “Ah did you listen to so & so!” [laughs] Some people read books, I listened to music. It stayed that way up until the first year of university, they were playing this one artist and I was like, “Who the hell is this guy? I’ve never heard of this guy.” I realised that if someone is that good and I’ve never heard of them, then there must be a whole world of music out there that I need to get into.  

What was you guys first impression of each other when you first met?

Jon: It was September 2017 at the Starbucks or Cafe Nero in the O2, we met through a mutual friend who Tope had been living with. My first impression was that he was a bit of a quiet, kind of cool guy.

Tope: My first impression of Jon was that he was a serious guy, turned out he was quite the opposite [laughs], he’s chilled. Definitely didn’t see him as a Hip Hop head, but then again he’s also from South London. Everyone in South London has some knowledge of Black music and culture.

Who came up with the idea to start the podcast initially? Or was it mutual?

Jon: I think it was Tope who came up with the idea. We had kind of been having discussions about music all the time, like long phone conversations about music and particular albums. Then one day during a conversation Tope brought the idea up.

Tope: One of the main things we wanted to do with our podcast was to mix modern music and throwbacks. In our “Now & Then” playlists we make it a point to have something that’s recent and have something that’s a throwback, that’s where the Vinyl theme kind of came in for the podcast.

You guys tend to involve other reviewers from different platforms in some of your episodes. Is that a necessity for a more ‘well rounded’ discussion?

Tope: I’ve always been quite keen to bring other people in, whether it be a podcast or just a discussion forum about music I was keen to bring other people in. It’s weird because I know a lot of our other episodes have guests, but for me the idea is to slot someone into a prepared topic. Even if the topic doesn’t necessarily fit them, adding a third party keeps it dynamic. If I’m going to talk about music, I don’t want to leave out a different perspective.

You guys make it a point to highlight different social issues when discussing music. The Rapsody and Mac Miller episodes come to mind, do you think the podcast has a duty to show us more than just music?

Jon: We don’t have any particular agenda, but certain albums that have deeper subject matter have to be put in context. There’s no point in reviewing any album if you don’t understand the context. Why it was made? Who it was made for? What is it commenting on?

Tope: Artists document history. If you look at songs that dropped within the same year, they’re usually a reflection of the times. That’s why some episodes might be more political than others because the music gives us that. Also, we genuinely care about the artists and music we’re covering so I think it is more than music.

Tell me about the significance of “The Spotlight Series” on the Instagram?

Jon: We do it every single Monday, we want to try and keep the platform engaging. We recommend three songs from a specific artist that some of our listeners may not have heard, the Collective is not just for us but everyone else as well.

Tope: It’s like a seal of approval too, if we’re bringing out new artists every single week you get to see those artists stories being told. I think that’s a lot more exciting than putting an artist on the Spotlight that is already an established act.

How’s the engagement been since you’ve started this podcast?

Jon: At the moment it’s just friends, sometimes you’ll get designers or illustrators. Currently we’re just trying to get past that friendship circle.

Tope: On Twitter, we get a lot of engagement from polls, etc. I get a lot of engagment from friends, they want to talk to me about music a lot more.

What’s your advice for someone starting a podcast? What are some of the essentials?

Jon & Tope: Stay curious.

Tope: I tell Jon all the time, “If you can imagine how it’s going to end you probably shouldn’t start it.” Can you do this for two or three years, this is not hard for me to do because I am genuinely interested.

Jon: Once you’ve found that thing you want to talk about it should guide you. Also, invest in some capital, whether that be £20 for a logo, start a social media page.

What’s your process when recording an episode?

Tope: We start off with a topic we want to discuss, then we pick a from that topic we want to expand on, then we kind of let natural conversation do the rest.

Jon: The album reviews are less scripted, because we have a specific set criteria like tracklisting and production, etc. Whereas if we’re discssing social commentary we’ll have notes.

On a more musical note, what’s your opinion on contemporary music?

Tope: In anything, once there is more data you’re more informed. I think today, rappers are more lyrical and technical than they have ever been. Not to say Run-DMC are shit, but people have learnt from their era and taken the genre to a different height. Modern music is way more clever and thoughtful, a lot more people want to send a message.

Jon: There’s so much ridiculously good music out right now, rap was really strong this year. I like that producers are getting more attention in this modern era as opposed to past generations.

What’s your top five projects this year?

Tope: J Hus - Big Conspiracy, Lianne La Havas - Self Titled, Freddie Gibbs - Alfredo, Conway - From King to a God, Blu & Exile - Miles: From an Interlude Called Life

Jon: Westside Gunn - Pray for Paris, Ka - Descendants of Cain, Boldy James - The Price of Tea in China, Sault - UNTITLED (Rise), Teyanna Taylor - The Album

What’s next for 2021?

Tope: Just make it a better show, touch on more interesting themes and more historic pieces.

Jon: Looking at better ways to engage the audience and refining the art.