REVIEW – DROP THE NEEDLE IS A NOSTALGIC LOOK AT THE COMING-OF-AGE OF TORONTO HIP-HOP

Drop The Needle isn’t just about a record store, but about the coming-of-age of Toronto hip-hop says Kevin Bourne in his Drop The Needle film review.

With the explosion of Toronto music on the world stage, 2022 has been a year for the city to look back and celebrate its hip-hop roots. First, Drake and OVO staged the All-Canadian North Stars show during OVO Fest, featuring the likes of local legends Saukrates, K-OS, Kardinal Offishall, Infinite, and more. Then this past weekend, Canterbury Crescent Filmworks premiered its long-awaited documentary Drop The Needle in front of a sold out crowd at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. For many in attendance it was a type of homecoming or reunion for those once entrenched in an often forgotten, yet vital, part of Toronto’s music history. For others, it was an introduction to a Toronto they never knew existed.

Drop The Needle tells the story of Trinidadian immigrant turned entrepreneur, Eugene Tam, who founded the now legendary record store Play De Record alongside his wife and parents. In a time when the masses flocked to other Yonge Street staples, like A&A Records and Sam The Record, for their mainstream music fix, Play De Record served the underground crowd, thirsty for the hottest Hip-hop and House music records.

Although Play De Record is front and centre, the film isn’t just about a record store but about the coming-of-age of Toronto’s Hip-hop and House scenes. Together, promoters, DJs, artists, TV personalities, and radio DJ’s/hosts, who were interviewed extensively in the film, formed a community with the then Yonge Street institution being the hub. Watching the film, it’s easy to see the store’s greatest legacy is the careers that were launched and not just the music itself.


SHIFTER attends the Drop The Needle premiere.


It can also be seen as a story about the broader changes in the music industry as it transitioned from physical units to digital—a familiar story that played out at record stores in cities all over the world.

The film also captures Tam’s foray into the recording business with Big Steppa Records, launched in the store’s basement, and his rivalry with the Traxx record store which was a great touch.

The film uses a blend of interviews, animation, and unintentional comedy, supported by a soundtrack of our favourite 90’s Toronto hip-hop tracks, to create a warm and nostalgic film. It takes viewers on a well-needed walk down memory lane and may even cause some to shed a tear as they remember a Toronto that no longer exists.

Overall, Drop The Needle is not only important for 80’s and 90’s Toronto hip-hop heads, but for those who are in the scene today to understand the lineage they come from, as well as fans of local history.

Drop The Needle screens again at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. For information visit hotdocs.ca.


Related content:

FILM PREVIEW – PLAY DE RECORD TO BE IMMORTALIZED IN UPCOMING DOCUMENTARY DROP THE NEEDLE