Crate Digging Defined
Posted by rchecka 




Crate Digging (re)Defined


real cratedigging

photo courtesy of Jason Lapeyre

The original source of the word "crate digging" is unknown as no one has stepped forward to take credit for the term. Yet before Showbiz & AG rapped about"Diggin' in the Crates" on their 1991 Soul Clap EP, or even before "Diamond done looked in the crate and found you this FUNKY beat!" on Raheem's 1989 track "I'm The King," DJs, vinyl collectors, and producers have been digging through actual milk crates or wooden fruit crates for new or used records. 

Crates were used as record bins for decades prior to the widespread use of the term crate digging.  Long before the birth of Hip Hop, physically digging in the crates was one of the only ways to find records, and crate digging meant nothing more than that.


crate diggers


Crate Digging vs Record Collecting


Definition of Record Collecting: 

It's self explanatory, but Wikipedia defines record collecting as "the hobby of collecting sound recordings, usually of music and/or the "spoken word" (i.e. recordings of drama, poetry, historical speeches, significant news broadcasts, speech dialect samplings, etc.), but, in some cases (although mostly on a smaller scale), even of other recorded sounds..."



crate digging strictometer 


The Strict Definition of Crate Digging:

Urban dictionary defines crate digging as "... A hip hop term for when one goes to an record store to look for old records to sample."

Notice the last two words there "to sample."  Technically those two words representing the intention of buying records "to sample" is the only difference between record collecting and crate digging. 

If you agree with that technicality without question, that means one can go to the record store for two reasons; to record collect for his or her own personal enjoyment, or to "crate dig" for records they intend on using to create new music.  So when record collectors buy records they buy the entire painting, whereas crate diggers are only buying the "paint."

Granted, this is an outdated, incomplete, and over-simplified definition of traditional crate digging only. Very few crate diggers buy records specifically for sampling with no intention of passively listening to them and even fewer still fewer make a point to avoid buying any music to simply enjoy. 

In addition, it has transcended well beyond Hip Hop circles, and a variety of non Hip Hop producers buy records to sample and create new music. Are they not crate digging since the music they make isn't Hip Hop? Sticklers of this technicality makes the word applicable only to a select group of elite Hip Hop producers despite the fact that all over the world millions of people are literally digging through crates for records this very moment.

If you take the conservative stance that the intent to sample must be there or it isn't truly crate digging, as per the old Urban Dictionary defnition, perhaps technically you aren't wrong, but that literal embrace is a dying stance for self-separtists in an otherwise huge world of record collectors who dig through crates. 



crate digging strictometer 



Now there's another more common and current understanding of the word "Crate Digging." One that doesn't require an intent to sample. The word's more prodomonant users have simplified it's meaning to nothing more than "the activity of physically digging through crates, stacks or shelves hunting for records to buy." 

This still means physically being at a store that sells records, and by that definition buying records online isn't technically crate digging, it's just record collecting.



crate digging strictometer


Looser Still...

Still another less traditional use of the word crate digging includes finding and buying records online. This school of thought justifies that it's the hunt for records that equates to crate digging, not the physical act of flipping through titles.

Should we distinguish between buying records online from a seller or buying from a brick and mortar store when both outcomes produce the records we hunted and paid for?

dig without getting dirty


World Wide Crate


Whether you consider buying records online crate digging or not, it is not something any sampling producers or record collectors can afford to ignore if they want that "special" record. The entire world's supply of records for sale is now available at everyone's fingertips.  With visible seller ratings and buyer protection purchasing options, the well informed crate diggers have an extremly low risk of paying for records they did not recieve intact shortly thereafter.

Of course, when you dig for records online the hunt for records by typing in search queries isn't remotely the same experience as being there in the flesh, but the odds of finding exactly what you want goes way up given the growing number of reputable worldwide online sellers.



cratedigging loosest



Then there is the loosest, biggest symantec drift from the original definition of the word crate digging which means simply the hunt for and discovery of music in general.

With this use of the word, the music's medium is irrelevant, it could be any thing from cassettes to mp3s. By this understanding, If music is discovered, even if it's just watching a YouTube video, you just crate dug.

The entire Internet's music supply is your "crate" and whether it's streaming music and videos or downloading mp3s, by partaking in this self discovery of music you can crate dig from anywhere with any electronic device without spending a dime as long as you at the very least have the web at your fingertips.


Where do you stand?

Regardless of your conservative or laxed view of the word crate digging, each view still has an honorable underlying meaning that cannot be denied; the hunger for music education and discovery. 

In a nutshell, that is the reason this forum exists.  It was created to celebrate the most enjoyable part of crate digging; peer to peer music discovery and discussion amoungst all music afficianados. Regardless of media type or how the music was discovered, sharing and discussing the music and learning from like-minded collectors is now and always will be our celebrated primary focus.


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All graphics on this page created by rchecka except top photo, coutesy of Jason Lapeyre.