Before anything else is said, please take a moment to consider the track "Turn On The Lights" by Future. Prior to cruising down the blurred but often brilliant motorway of lean on Xanax on molly on Percocet on weed, Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn released a consummate song – nay, floodlit hymn – about how it feels to start adventuring down an exciting road to victory with a new lover.
Though Future hasn't yet found his new partner, he's kneeling down, arms and heart open like a blank cheque book. "If you wanna live better / We can buy a crib, wherever," he sings to his nameless paramour. "I want to tell the world about you so that they can get jealous". Taken from his debut studio album Pluto, the song was previously only available in digital and CD form. Well, until two wise guys from Britain decided to cut the whole record to vinyl in an effort to make the world a better place and give limited edition vinyl collectors an unprecedented amount of steez.
Going by the names of Sam and James, the two friends kicked off their boutique label Omerta Inc earlier this year with Pluto and the first physical edition of G Perico's Shit Don't Stop. Unlike the bootlegged copies of Channel Orange that are floating around eBay, Omerta's shit is legit – and it sounds good. Since then they've released records by Pee-Wee Longway, Three Six Mafia and Gucci Mane, among others. But how? Well, that's exactly what we're going to find out when I ask them the damn question.
Noisey: Hi guys, here's the damn question. How did you go from being average people to inaugural purveyors of the mixtape-to-vinyl game?
Sam Gilbert: Well, we both have jobs in music.
Sam: We've been working in the industry for four or five years. I guess this is a passion project.
James Batsford: We've been friends for a while. Like Sam said, hip-hop is our passion, but we don't really get a chance to cover it at our day jobs, as we work with proper indie bands.
That makes sense. There's no world in which Cousin Stizz would sit on a label next to, say, Sheer Mag. So you're both British… how come you've focused on the more underground, mixtape side of US rap?
James: People have asked us about the grime side of it – and we like that stuff. But I grew up listening to 50 Cent, Ludacris, The Game – the gangster kind of hip-hop. Gucci Mane, Pee-Wee Longway, they're the new school of that. It's got a harder edge and it feels a lot more real.
Sam: It's been more exotic to us as well, hasn't it?
James: Yeah, it has a bit of romance to it.
Sam: Pee-Wee Longway isn't a household name over here, so to put his music out is pretty cool.
I can see what you mean about Pee-Wee and Guwop specifically. There's a certain feel to mixtapes in the US that we don't have here, too.
James: Yeah, there's usually crazy artwork that goes along with the music. Plus the sheer amount of releases these people do; they're constantly putting out stuff – whether it's three tracks a day or four mixtapes a day.
So you're not opposed to doing UK releases too?
Sam: Nah, but weirdly we've met loads more US people. We're more connected in that scene than in the UK, so it's spiralled like that.
James: It's kind of been a snowball effect. The more people we work with, the more people we meet – especially in the Atlanta world.
How do two British people go about meeting people from the ATL?
Sam: Literally emailed them. The first one was G Perico. He had his contact email on his Instagram. We emailed him and he responded in five, six hours with his manager on copy.
And then the record gets released?
Sam: It's pretty straightforward. All they need to give us the artwork and the tracks, then we can do the rest.
James: When we reached out to Zaytoven, his manager chatted to us – and from that, they've got such a massive collection of music, we're getting a lot of stuff through him and he's introducing us to lots of other people. He's asking us to intro him to people who are cool in the UK scene, so we're helping each other in our respective countries.
That's nice. At first I thought these releases were really fancy bootlegs, because it seemed impossible to convince someone like Future to put out a vinyl on a small boutique label...
James: Yeah, we were worried that people would think it wasn't real.
Sam: But it is! Pluto and Three Six Mafia we licensed from their labels. The Future release was pretty much a dream.
I bet. How do you go about getting the record's printed?
Sam: We have a broker in Soho and they have a factory in the Czech Republic. The whole process is straightforward: we pick a colour that reflects the album art or the artist.
James: We've got purple, lean-coloured vinyl for Three Six Mafia.
Right. What are the runs?
Sam: They're quite limited, usually 300 to 500 on the colour. The packaging is really nice, because we're both influenced by people like Sacred Bones and other boutique punk labels in America who do limited edition runs, hand stamp them, release them with fold-out posters or numbered vinyl.
James: For the older records we get them remastered for vinyl, too. We press on 180 gram so it really sounds good when you play it.
I like how Gucci Mane and Zaytoven is pressed onto cocaine white.
Sam: Yeah, we just rolled with that one.
LOL. Thanks guys.
You can find Ryan on Twitter.
Omerta Inc recently released 'Extinction Level Event' by Busta Rhymes and 'Suffolk County' by Cousin Stizz. Next drop announced June 22nd. Find more about them on Instagram here.