Sitting pretty on Grünberger Allee in the city’s district of Friedrichshain, is one of Berlin’s best record stores. HHV (hip-hop vinyl) was set up in 2002, and specialises in hip-hop, soul, world beats with electronic, rock and reggae thrown in for good measure. The store also has an excellent fashion range, selection of sneakers and other erstwhile accessories, along with a record label, compilation series and various instore performances. It was one of the first high-street stores to set up online ordering, and is highly regarded throughout Europe with its excellent delivery service and range. Having already been through three different stores, it’s hard to imagine that the team is only just celebrating their 13th anniversary. This weekend saw the store celebrate in style with an anniversary party at Gretchen featuring Pete Rock and Blackalicious. We caught up with HHV’s head of marketing, Stefan Gerats, to talk about how the store started, and what important moments transpired over the past 13 years.
How did it all begin?
It all started with a bunch of records that were sold or exchanged in a small apartment. More and more people came and got to know about a place or person with rare hip hop records. And in 2002 Thomas Ulrich, the founder and owner of hhv.de, decided to open a record store called Hip Hop Vinyl in Berlin Friedrichshain.
What are the guiding principles behind your store that set you apart from the rest?
We don’t really do things in a different way. We just do what we love, there has never been a masterplan. If there are any principles, although I’m not sure if it really set us apart, is hard work, authenticity, honesty and earthiness. It’s as simple as that.
"That’s really the essence of record digging: It’s hard work"
What was the hip-hop scene like in Berlin in 2002?
German hip-hop or rap music was part of the German mainstream pop culture at that time, but after its peak in 2002, it became more and more boring. So slowly something new started with labels like Aggro Berlin, and artists like Bushido, that could be called ‘german gangster rap’. That put Berlin on the German rap map.
But hhv.de never really put its focus on the german rap scene and we never used the Berlin gangster rap image because that wasn’t what we are about. For hhv.de, it was always about the US hip-hop. We brought records from overseas to Germany for a very good price that before had never been readily available.
How many stores have you had and have you always been based in Friedrichshain?
We’ve had three different stores and all of them have always been in the Chefhain. We’re based here because at the beginning, all employees were born and raised here and also lived in this area. So that’s where we’re from; our home.
When did you add the distribution and retail site to your company and what motivated the decision?
There has never been a local store without an online shop. So there has even been a retail site since 2002. At a time when online stores weren’t the norm, that was what set us apart from other record stores at that time.
What have your best in-store performances been so far?
That’s hard to say but Egyptian Lover just performed at our store to perform on his 808. That was probably one of the best in-store performances so far.
Tell us a bit about your “Diggin is a Science” YouTube Channel.
It must have been 2007 when we had our first hhv.de ‘Diggin Days’ here in Berlin, which is a vinyl flea market with a lot of used records from our stock. Now it happens almost every year and loads of people come. That’s really the essence of record digging: It’s hard work, it’s dusty but you will find those gold nuggets. But to know when you have found a gold nugget, requires knowledge. That’s the science. We always use this slogan in connection with our used vinyl assortment and ‘Diggin Days.’ One day we started the videos to drop some knowledge on vinyl diggers from producers and heads who could share their experience.
What’s one of your moment memorable moments in the store?
Puh, there are so many things happening every day. Really hard to say. We were very happy when we opened our recent store. That was a good moment.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to set up their own record store?
Be prepared. It’s a lot of work. You’ll have to love what you do; otherwise it’s impossible to survive.
There are currently anniversary offers at HHV’s online store here. Or you can visit them at Grünberger Straße 54.