A Brief History of Streetsounds records

Jul 25, 2023

Streetsounds Records is a legendary record label that played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of urban music in the 1980s. Founded by Morgan Khan in 1982, the label quickly became synonymous with the emerging genres of hip-hop, electro, and breakdancing. With its innovative approach to music production and promotion, Streetsounds Records became a driving force behind the rise of street culture and the birth of the British urban music scene.

The Birth of Streetsounds Records

Morgan Khan, a DJ and music enthusiast, recognized the potential of urban music and its growing popularity in the UK. Inspired by the emerging hip-hop scene in New York, Khan decided to bring this exciting new sound to British audiences. In 1982, he founded Streetsounds Records with a vision to introduce the best of urban music to the UK market.

The Sound of the Streets

Streetsounds Records quickly gained a reputation for its cutting-edge sound and trendsetting releases. The label's first compilation album, "Streetsounds Electro," was an instant success, showcasing the raw energy and futuristic beats of electro music. This groundbreaking release paved the way for subsequent compilations that featured the best of hip-hop, funk, and soul.

Streetsounds Electro

Breaking New Ground

Streetsounds Records played a crucial role in introducing British audiences to the emerging subcultures of breakdancing and street fashion. The label's releases not only provided the soundtrack to the breakdancing craze but also helped popularize the distinctive style associated with the movement.

Breakdancing style

Chart Success and Legacy

Streetsounds Records achieved remarkable success on the UK charts, with several of its compilation albums reaching the top 10. The label's innovative approach to marketing and promotion, including eye-catching album artwork and influential music videos, helped propel its releases to mainstream success.

Impact on the Music Industry

The influence of Streetsounds Records extended far beyond the charts. The label's commitment to showcasing urban music and its dedication to quality production set a new standard for the industry. Streetsounds Records paved the way for other independent labels to thrive and helped establish the urban music scene as a significant force in the UK.

Streetsounds Records album cover

End of an Era

After a successful run throughout the 1980s, Streetsounds Records eventually ceased operations in the early 1990s. However, the label's impact on the music industry and its legacy continue to resonate. Streetsounds Records remains a symbol of creativity, innovation, and the power of urban music to shape culture.

In Conclusion

Streetsounds Records played a crucial role in shaping the sound of urban music in the 1980s. Through its groundbreaking releases and innovative approach to marketing, the label introduced British audiences to the vibrant world of hip-hop, electro, and breakdancing. Streetsounds Records left an indelible mark on the music industry and its legacy continues to inspire artists and music enthusiasts today. 

Street Sounds was conceived from the need to expose and make available the latest, most upfront music from the streets of America to UK and European audiences. The concept was born from Morgan Khan's love of music as a fan and from his own frustration of not being able to get hold of certain tracks because they were either US imports, that cost up to 10 times that of a UK 12 inch single, or album AND that’s if you could even find the import. 

Let us not forget that the majority of record shops in the early 80's, where ‘Mama and Papa’ type shops, which were totally oblivious to the new music being listened to by a new generation. Also, until the birth of Street Sounds the perception of compilation albums were ‘Ktel’ type albums, featuring mainstream pop hits, or cover versions, sometimes so butchered in length, to fit as many tracks as possible on each album.

Street Sounds is the 'godfather' of the modern compilation album and its format became the template for the labels that came later. The concept of each album; to literally represent the sound of the moment; full length versions and the highest quality.

The compilation albums and tracks released by Street Sounds have directly influenced and defined hundreds of thousands of people’s lives and have also been substantially responsible for today’s mainstream and street music culture. Street Sounds has been accredited by numerous journalists and DJs, including Paul Gambaccini, Bob Kilbourn and James Hamilton as pioneering Electro, Hip Hop and House in the UK. Numerous publications and other media have documented the importance of Street Sounds to popular culture.

The reason for the colossal success of the Street Sounds albums was having tracks which were just coming on import, or were still only available as promotional records to the few key DJs, or having just been UK released, or tracks hard to get hold of in there full-length version. Numerous tracks featured on the Street Sounds albums were never even were released as singles in the UK, or Europe. Street Sounds, or more precisely its sister label STREETWAVE were responsible for giving exposure to many artist, that would never have broken in Europe. One of these was Cheryl Lynn and her track “Encore”, which CBS records had decided not to release and thank God, Streetwave did, with major commercial success!

Why there is such collective respect, support and love for Street Sounds? The reasons include, our heritage, the fact that we have our finger on the pulse of street music, made buying hot and expensive in demand American imports affordable & widely available for many people and we became the ‘sound of the street’. Street Sounds is far more than just a record label and its distinctive yellow and black logo. Street Sounds is for many people a passage/journey from youth to adulthood, a way of life that helped shape their identity, that opened a new world of music and culture.