Meet Brittany Benton, a DJ and producer as DJ Red-I as well as owner of Brittany’s Record Shop; an independent record store specializing in hip-hop, reggae and soul out of Cleveland, Ohio. Brittany and I connected through social media, and I love seeing all she is doing for her local vinyl / music community.
In her free time, like she mentions later, she is still all about music. From making music or studying sound design and synthesis to currently trying to improve her piano skills. “…My right hand technique has to improve if I wanna lay down killer melodies in real time.”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I’ve always been a music collector. I used to save up my lunch money to by tapes and my Mom would take me to Nikki’s Records back in the 90s. So I got my start digging for cassettes as a 7 year old. Since I’d see him every Friday, Nikki would start throwing in his extra promo copies which had remixed versions of songs. That’s what got me into learning more about samples and beat making. My grandmother’s sisters were the ones that got me into records. I wasn’t really interested in vinyl until my aunt tasked me with digitizing her vinyl collection when I was about 13. She bought a giant digital recorder but made me read the manual and figure it out. I sat in the basement all weekend burning her vinyl onto cds.
I was fascinated by the tech of vinyl. So simple but so good and a sound you could almost taste. I realized that I was in a real library but with music and never noticed it before. I think my aunt Joan knew exactly what she was doing. My Aunt Pat would always tell me about how great Santana solos sounded on wax. My Aunt Sandy put me on to the jazz supergroups like Weather Report, Return To Forever and the Crusaders. I always admired how meticulously she handled every record like the sacred archive that it was. When I went to her basement and entered the listening room, I felt like I was in the ancient Library of Alexandria or something.
As a dj, I caught the bug early because I was always connected to nightlife in some way. My mom bartended when I was younger so when I’d go to her job, I’d always check out what the dj was doing. I was too young to sit at the bar so she’d let me chill at a booth or a table while I sipped Shirley Temples. I felt so grown and sophisticated.
I was a kid looking at the dj like a mix between a orchestral conductor and witch doctor because he’d take everyday songs but by the way he was mixing and cutting records it was making all the grownups dance uncontrollably.
My dad and his family came here from Jamaica and opened the first Jamaican club in Cleveland called Dailey’s in the 80s. For years it was at the heart of the city’s reggae scene.
Wow that was long-winded, but I’m literally the legacy of a long line of music lovers and cultural keepers.
What is a day in the life like?
When I’m at the shop, I’m pricing and organizing records, burning incense and hanging art. Before the pandemic, I’d be djing at night most weekends. I teach Spanish 3 days a week for grades 1-8. On my off days I listen to records and work on music.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
An event called Beatfreak. It’s my beat makers monthly. Every Sunday at the shop, I invite producers from all over the city to showcase their sounds. It’s over 3 years strong and we’ve really built a community.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Trying to understand work-life balance even when your work is your life. I do what I love all day but wish there were at least 30 hours in a day so I can get more done.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
It’s about growing up, but not growing out of what made you love it in the first place.
I believe that God blesses all of us with a purpose to contribute to the world around us. Most of us remember having a childhood obsession that usually dominated our thoughts and daydreams. It’s our job to hone and channel that to our compass. They say, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. It’s true because music has been for me from the beginning and it’s how I make a living today.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I love that millennials and Gen Z have embraced the format. I feel like we are coming out of the era where people come in a say, “Yo! I can get Kendrick Lamar and Kaytranada on wax?” Our generation now expects to see our music on wax.
Plus I live that quality turntables are much more accessible. Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60 is such a great entry level piece, I usually tell new crate diggers to put that in their starter kit.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Support your local shops if you can. If they sell new vinyl and don’t have something you want, ask if they’ll special order it for you. Many will and it give them a chance to earn your business even if it’s something that they don’t usually sell.
Also, djs need to make more of an effort to put together some vinyl nights. If you have some great vinyl, play it! People respect the dj that can still rock tables and crates and vinyl nights punt away pesky song requesters that want a human jukebox instead of a curator. I dj with Serato most of the time due to the nature of the industry these days but I still play vinyl whenever I can. It’s important.
Finally, anything else people should know?
When digging: the bigger the afro, the longer the dreads or more ornate the braid work, the better the music. This works across genre, era or region.
Brittany’s Record Shop: @brittanysrecordshop
DJ Red-I: @djredibeats
Brittany’s Record Shop: @BrittanysRSCLE
DJ Red-I: @djredibeats
Brittany’s Record Shop: www.brittanysrecordshop.com
DJ Red-I: www.djred-i.com