Not many record labels survive a year. Hardly any are above water after nearly 20. In the tumultuous sea of hip-hop, listeners’ tastes change faster than a full-moon riptide—but Brick Records refuses to sink.

To date, Malden-based hip-hop label Brick Records has put out more than 160 rap releases from Boston bigwigs Reks, Big Shug, Moe Pope, and many more. “Find me another Boston rap label that’s put out 20 records,” Papa D said.

Meet Adam “Papa D” DeFalco, the sole owner of Brick. His label makes up the rap arm of Traffic Entertainment, a distribution company of which Papa D is also a partner.

I met Papa D at Cambridge Common, a restaurant near Harvard Square. The restaurant buzzed from the Wednesday night dinner crowd. A bearded rep from Sierra Nevada circulated the room, handing out samples of lukewarm pale ale in Dixie Cups. Between us on our booth table, Papa D plopped a few of Brick Records’ latest releases: Triple OGzus by Big Shug, Soul Veggies by Mega Ran and Storyville, and Shut Up And Rap by Termanology.

To what does Papa D attribute Brick’s longstanding success? “I just don’t give a fuck.”

He clarified: “If I put out five flops in a row, I’m still putting out that sixth record. But we’ve kept it to a manageable size. If I’d hired a bunch of other guys and rented office space, I’d probably be out of business.”

When Brick was born in 1996 along with his then-partner “Truth,” Papa D operated out of his Emerson College dorm room. He had constructed a home recording setup in his room—one of the first, Papa D was quick to point out. Brick Records’ focus in its early years was giving now-veteran Boston rappers like Akrobatik, Esoteric, and Mr. Lif an outlet to be heard. With his DJ gig at the Emerson radio station, WERS, and his dorm studio set-up, Brick laid its foundations.

These days, the scope has expanded. “I just want to put out records I like,” Papa D said. “I’ve put out tons of fucking records that have lost money, only because I think they deserve to be out.”

Of course, if you work in the recording business, you hold about as stable a position as trying to stand on a floating pool mat. Papa D knows this first hand.

After nine years of pushing Brick Records, Papa D decided to go to law school in case he ever wanted to get out of the business. “I was like, fuck it, I’ll take the LSAT!”

After receiving a scholarship, Papa D earned his degree from Suffolk University Law School and—following a year working in a corporate law firm, which he hated—once again decided to test the waters with Brick Records and Traffic Entertainment.

Papa D admitted that studying law helped his business significantly. “It helps with licensing, doing any of the contracts with artists, trademarks, and copyrights,” he said. As it turned out, instead of helping him get out of the music business, law helped him dive deeper.

Though he puts out many of Boston’s veteran rappers’ albums, Papa D is hesitant to embrace the younger generation of Boston MCs.

“Nowadays it takes nothing to be an artist,” Papa D said. “You don’t really have to pay any dues. You can record shit on your own computer, somebody you know makes decent enough beats if you don’t make them yourself, and you can get them on iTunes or Bandcamp without having to go through any fucking struggle. And I feel like that hurts the quality of music because there’s no filter.”

Still, Papa D believes that the scene right now is better than it was in the past 10 years. “A lot of different styles of hip-hop are popular right now, nationally, which I think helps the scene,” he said.

When asked who specifically in the younger generation of Boston rappers he likes, Papa D offered Michael Christmas. “I wish I knew about Michael Christmas before he got a buzz,” he said. “I think he’s dope.”

Of course, for many rappers, record labels aren’t the outlet of choice to put out music—at least not to start. As Papa D pointed out, digital music streaming giants like Spotify, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp make it easy to showcase music without having to press thousands of records and spend thousands of dollars to do so.

So how does a label sell records in the era of online streaming?

“Number one trick is to make’m good,” Papa D said. “If it’s not good music, you’re fucked. Then hopefully your publicist can get them to a blog that’s interested.”

Operating a warehouse filled with “40,000 records, 100,000 records, whatever it is,” two full-time graphic designers, a few sales guys, and four other guys, it seems like Brick Records and Traffic Entertainment need no rescuing. As other labels vanish into the ocean of hip-hop history, Brick Records is Boston’s stalwart hip-hop coast guard, patrolling the waters.

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