Best Record Store: Lou’s Records and Access Hip Hop

    Art-rock snobs are notoriously stuffier than any other
    genre’s quintessential connoisseur, often withholding their far superior tastes
    for those who can similarly prove an obscure, trivia-based worth. At the other
    end of the spectrum are the over-dedicated hip-hop heads, who will stuff their
    stickers, posters, mixtapes, instrumentals, vinyl, T-shirts and bonus tracks
    down anybody’s throat who gets too close.

    This is not to say that the dudes at Lou’s Records are
    entirely off-putting — after all, living in Encinitas, they probably breath
    enough herb to kneed out the typically uptight parts — it’s just that nothing
    can compare to Access Hip Hop’s head-over-heels infatuation with its
    contemporary scene. This also isn’t to say that the dudes at Access are overly
    pushy with their shit. Lingering evidence of early ties with the Living Legends
    crew wallpapers this Pacific Beach hole-in-the-barstrip, along with promotional
    paraphernalia from other artsy indies like MF Doom, Mr. Lif and every last
    entry in the Stones Throw address book. Due to its prime spot in the ultimate
    SoCal college town, Access is as whitewashed as can be expected: Surfer/stoners
    wander in from the Garnet sidewalk by the boatload, sniffing out the hottest
    reggae- and dancehall-heavy comps that money can buy, guided by a friendly,
    knowledgeable and unpretentious staff happy to cater to the hyperchill
    demographic. Hell — there’s even a Craigslist couch on which to crash when the
    browsing possibilities begin to get a little heavy.

    A few invariable beach towns up Interstate 5 is Lou’s
    Records, a North County landmark that majors in local flavor, knee-deep indie
    rock and bottomless cratefuls of oldies-but-goodies. The shop also hosts some
    of the most intimate live acoustics in the area, and bring by characters like
    the Hold Steady and M.I.A. (though the latter for a meet-and-greet only) to
    serenade the balmy U.S. Highway 101 roadside. Access may out-enthuse Lou’s by a
    long shot, but who can help but wax charmed by a little small-town snub-nose
    for the collection.

    Runner Up: M-Theory Music

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