In Australia, you will find an unapologetic rap nerd, someone who digs through old records not just to collect but listen to every vinyl he finds. Meet Antonio Bullatino. A true hip hop fan and vinyl collector with over 3,500 records on hand. “I went into a record shop called Mr. Music on my 10th birthday and instead of going to the usual metal section I stumbled across the rap section. My life changed.” The album that did it? “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” by Public Enemy. Not necessarily light reading. But it didn’t faze the young Antonio, who wanted to hear more, to collect more. “I’ve always been a collector: Sneakers, tapes, records, football cards. Basically, all my life.”
Antonio grew up living on a cruise ship sailing the world, a ship Antonio jokingly and lovingly calls “The Love Boat”. His father was an engineer from Italy, his mother from England. They settled in Adelaide, Australia when he was 5. Little Antonio grew up consuming Metallica, Anthrax, and Iron Maiden. He started collecting tapes, then CD’s, but one day his local record shop started selling vinyl. “I picked up BDP’s Criminal Minded, took it to the counter and haven’t gone more than a week or so without adding to the stack.” For a real collector and fan it’s like a full time job. “I’m married with a 22 month old”, he states, “but hip hop takes up a lot of my time, too”. The global force called hip hop, before social media and before MTV was promoting it, wound its way into Antonio’s heart and soul.
As a kid, after picking up Public Enemy, he ran through Run-DMC, NWA, and then 2 Live Crew. His parents became a bit wary about Antonio and his brother’s new obsession with hip hop. “Our parents realized we moved past “Mary, Mary” and “911 is a Joke”. Our dad lost his shit and returned (the tapes) to the store.” He was not to be deterred. He and his brother became more discrete, playing the tapes through headphones and hiding them when they could. “Our Mom was okay with it to a degree but our Dad seen it s guys just swearing and talking. The same reason he hated it when we watched Beverly Hills Cop.” Antonio’s pseudonym on Instagram these days is waxel_foley.
Hip hop was just starting to gain attention in Australia in the 1980’s, but home grown Australian hip hop stayed mostly underground being played very seldom on radio stations. “You had to be knee deep in the scene to know about them. Every city in Australia had crews,” Antonio explains. Trem, Def Wish Cast, Prowla, and Hilltop Hoods started selling albums and making noise in the late 80’s and early 90’s bringing the hip hop scene in Australia to new levels. But it wasn’t until 2000 when a DJ from Antonio’s home town of Adelaide made a compilation of rappers from around the country called “Culture of Kings”. The compilation turned Australian hip hop artists from being underground acts to house hold names. Australia and the world, as Antonio states, “found out about this secret that was dwelling under their noses for over a decade. Not by using fake American accents, not by talking about shit we don’t experience down here, not rapping about stereo typical Australian shit like putting shrimps on the [sic] fucken barbees. But by talking about real shit with their real voice with dope flow.”
Collecting vinyl and being a hip hop head is more than just lifestyle for Antonio. He discusses it like a religion, collecting examples from people who interpret rap and hip hop differently, calmly understanding heated debates of when it was at its best or where it’s going to go from here. Some of his records may be antiques, but they are not just for show. They get played all the time. His source of meditation, calm, and study comes from the sound of the needle finding the groove. But make no mistake, Antonio loves the music first, the collecting is more second nature.
“Some vinyl collectors actually piss me off a bit because they have this fucked up attitude that collecting vinyl makes them more of a hip hop head or some shit and talk about records by how rare it is and how much it’s worth more than how dope it sounds. I would much rather have a 99 cent album that sounds def in my collection than a limited edition, Japanese pressing average arse record that’s worth big bucks. If it’s dope and rare, even better. But always dope over rare.”
Dope over rare. 3 words that could almost describe anything cool in history. But 3 words that most accurately describe a true fans obsession with the culture, music, and vinyl of hip hop.