VIP Long Beach logoFor 40 years, the World Famous VIP Records and Tapes was central Long Beach’s cornerstone. Not only was it the mecca of G-funk, but it also provided a cool place to pass the time while shielded from the ills of street life on Pacific Coast Highway and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. For those who needed it most, VIP was an open door.

Subwoofers in front of the shop rattled the windows. DJs spun bass-heavy jams in a booth fashioned after the bow of the Queen Mary, luring OGs and youngsters to flip through racks of vinyl, tapes and CDs. When the store wasn’t packed for in-store appearances from LL Cool J, Shaq and Too $hort, mounted TVs lit up with throwback music videos. The walls were cluttered with billboards, artist posters and T-shirts, and cardboard cutouts featured rap stars such as Snoop, Warren G, Daz Dillinger and Nate Dogg—all were neighborhood kids who started rapping in the store’s backroom studio over beats from an E-mu SP-1200 drum machine. Their demos brought G-funk to the world.

“People used to come to VIP just for the experience,” says Kelvin Anderson Sr., a spry 64-year-old known as “Pops” to the community. Despite his role as the Berry Gordy of Long Beach, his southern drawl hints at his upbringing in rural Mississippi. “They didn’t just come to buy music. They wanted to come because we had a DJ there; they wanted to come because we had a stage. They wanted [to come] because there was no telling who they might bump into.” Read more from the OCWeekly.