In 1997, Paul Rosenberg, the attorney of an aspiring rapper from Detroit calling himself Eminem, was walking along 6th Avenue in the West Village with ten copies of an independent 12-inch vinyl single titled “Just Don’t Give a Fuck.” His mission was simple: try to persuade a record store called Fat Beats to stock it. He’d heard the store mentioned on Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito‘s WKCR college-radio show, and thought it crucial to launching the career of an underground rap artist.
Q-Unique, a Fat Beats employee at the time and member of the Arsonists, remembers the encounter. “Paul came in and asked me to take the record,” he says. “The manager wasn’t sure about it, but I knew Eminem’s rep from the underground battle circuit. I said I’d be responsible for them if they didn’t sell.” All ten copies sold within an hour.
A year later, Eminem would return to Fat Beats for an in-store to meet and greet fans. By then he was on the cusp of going ballistic, and the line backed up to 9th Street. His ascent to superstar status was almost preordained–a major-label deal with Interscope and the guiding hand of Dr. Dre did most of the work–but the emporium played a key part in his come-up. Rosenberg, now Eminem’s manager, insists that “for a totally independent artist, one without any distribution deal, getting your record in Fat Beats was the only way back then.”