Wax Poetics: Expanding the Empire

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Since its inception in 2001, the bi-monthly Wax Poetics magazine has become a bible for seekers of rarefied grooves, message-laden hip-hop, and ephemera from bygone soul and funk eras. It is to publishing what Soul Jazz is to the crate-digging community–not just a distiller of the finest lost sounds in funk, reggae, and jazz but a griot-like teller of their histories.

Last year, with the help of Amir Abdullah (of Kon and Amir fame), the magazine expanded to include a label of the same name, on which they released their debut compilation, East of Underground, a recording borne of a battle of the bands on a U.S. Army base in Germany in 1971. “We’re following that up with a rare 45 titled ‘Baby I Want You’ b/w ‘Pray for Me,’ the Mizell Brothers’ first release as The Moments,” informs Wax Poetics editor and vinyl enthusiast Andre Torres.

While an MP3 download site of hard-to-find tunes is on its way, Torres’ latest obsession is a pair of books that the magazine will release in association with Puma. “Make Checks Payable to Charles Mingus,” a tale of the legendary bassist’s failed mail-order “record club,” is just one of many intensely researched and beautifully photographed stories recounted in Wax Poetics Anthology Volume 1 (hardcover; $39.95). But to really wax nostalgic, check out Cover Story (softcover; $19.95), a less content-heavy survey of funk, soul, hip-hop, house, and disco’s sexy, strange, beautiful, and hilarious sleeve art.

Both books are out this spring on Wax Poetics/powerHouse Books.