Photos by Emily Berkey for Okayplayer
In Northeast Los Angeles on a stretch of street called Figueroa, across from the Highland Theatre and next to Stones Throw Records lay The Artform Studio, brainchild of Adrian and Sherry Younge. Marrying together the couple’s talents and passions, The Artform Studio is a finely-curated record store with a hair salon in it. Or a hair salon with a record store in it, if you rather.
Adrian is a producer known for his work scoring Marvel’s Luke Cage, producing for Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah, Jay Z, and many more. Sherry is a hairstylist, makeup artist, wardrobe stylist, and photographer. The duo, alongside Ray Montano, store manager, and Andrew Lojero, co-owner and book selection curator, relocated the shop from the Arts District and opened Artform Studio’s new Highland Park location on Sunday, April 9th.
Sitting on a block amongst a couple record stores and another hair salon, the owners of the studio aren’t worried about blending in. The vintage style space, masterfully decorated by Adrian, a self proclaimed “flea market head,” holds a collection of vinyl curated over the past ten years. The label’s on the vinyl dividers read, “Eclectic, Progressive, World, Cinema, Linear Labs, Hip Hop, Modern Soul, Soul Comps, Soul, and Jazz.”
“This whole record store is a duplication and expansion of my own record collection. When people walk into the shop I want them to feel the curation…When people come in here, they’re listening to the kind of stuff I’m listening to every day. If people like my music, then they’ll like this music way more,” explains Adrian.
The opening day line up included over 20 artists, actors, and comedians, every one of which spun vinyl. Karriem Riggins, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Gaslamp Killer, Rhettmatic, Michael Rappaport, Opio, Monalisa, and House Shoes, are only a few of the names the flier read.
Early opening day, an older gentleman sat outside next to a large speaker and basked in the sun while he knocked his cane to the melty, soulful beats spun by Ruben Molina of Southern Soul Spinners. The wrapper of the old man’s butterscotch candy fell from his hand and danced in the wind, landing amongst a row of strollers parked outside. Inside, the space was filled with young children, their families, and a melting pot of unique individuals with a passion for hair, books, and music.
By 3pm the space was full to the brim. An hour later, a line had formed outside, leading halfway down the block, and a puddle of people had congregated out front. A few of the nearby store owners commented on the drastic increase in Sunday foot traffic thanks to the draw The Younge Family’s new space.
In the back of the studio sat hair styling chairs and a row of wash basins filled with clients; Some receiving blowouts and styling while one dyed her hair. Over the microphone, drowning out the sound of the hair dryers in the back, Adrian thanked each DJ after their set and introduced the next artist slated to play. He explained to the crowd filled with his friends, “This is a space for US. For US! If you find yourself not having anywhere to go, you’re welcome here. We’ll be here.” The hairdressers swayed to the soulful beats as they groomed their clients manes.
Half way through the day, Karriem Riggins turned the space into a dance party and Michael Rapaport hit the turntables once the crowd was warmed up. Peanut Butter Wolf stood on the opposite side of the table and scratched while Michael ran to snag vinyl from the shelves to play. Picking up a Nas record, Michael made his way back to Peanut Butter Wolf, and slapped the vinyl down, coaxing cheers from the audience. Throughout the day, DJ’s would repeatedly scratch together as one exited and the other entered, creating a seamless transition every time; a playful electricity that characterized each and every set well into the evening.
Off to the side of the DJ booth and vinyl walls sat a large bookshelf containing an eclectic collection of literature hand picked by Lojero. Books about Nina Simone, Sun Ra, The Creative Artists Agency’s untold stories, Pink Floyd, and Elvis lined the shelves. A few attendees perused the library while soul, funk, and jazz soaked the air.
The DJ’s tended to stick around after their sets and enjoyed the neighborhood reunion that The Artform Studio’s opening provided. The guest list was as impressive as the DJ line up. Artists like The Beat Junkies turntablist J Rocc, Living Legends’ Scarub, Dr. Dre collaborator King Mez, and singer Tiombe Lockhart showed up to support their friends’ shop.
As the night fell and the full moon’s blue light illuminated the crowd outside, Younge could be seen manning the 1’s and 2’s through the glass storefront, digging through his Louis Vuitton record box as he skillfully picked tracks that kept the crowd captivated. While Younge spun, his long-time friend Jeremy Sole explained the value of The Artform Studio stating, “we’ve all worked at record stores and we’ve surpassed that stage where we want to keep everything for ourselves. Adrian is the kind of person you’d want to start a store like this. To make hip hop, you don’t use hip hop records. This kind of music inspires more.”
As comedian Russell Peters closed the night with a rambunctious mix of hip hop, Sherry reiterated the The Artform Studio’s policy of inclusivity. She explained, “This is the space for all creativity to shine. We will definitely be having art shows here.”
If you missed the grand opening, fear not. The Artform Studio family will be throwing an event rumored to mirror the grand opening for Record Store Day on April 22. Until then, they’ll be open for business, and even video and photo shoots, within their swanky new spot on Figueroa. Stop by the space and read a book while you get your hair done, then leave with a stack of vinyl picked for you by Adrian himself.