It Ain’t Retro
Daptone Records & The 21st-Century Soul Revolution
Jessica Lipsky

August 2021
ISBN 9781911036739
296pp with 16pp photo insert
6 x 8.5 in (150 x 215mm)
£14.95 UK / $22.95 US / $29.95 CAN

It Ain’t Retro is a powerful reminder of the enduring power of soul music to influence and inspire newer generations of artists and audiences alike. Lipsky shines a light on stories that, until now, have rarely been shared, adding literally new chapters to a sixty-plus-year history of soul’s importance on the global stage.”
Oliver Wang, pop music scholar, writer, and DJ

“All Sharon Jones ever wanted was recognition—not only for herself but for the whole Daptone family and the soul scene. We proved that soul never died, and It Ain’t Retro is a solid chronicle of our collective effort.”
Binky Griptite

Soul is the most powerful expression of American music—a distinct combination of roots, migration, race, culture, and politics packaged together for your dancing pleasure. But if you thought the sounds of Motown or Stax Records died along with 8-tracks and macramé, you’d be wrong. For two decades, Daptone Records has churned out hard funk and such beautiful soul that these records sparked a musical revolution.

With a collective of soul-obsessed producers and musicians, the Brooklyn-based independent label launched the careers of artists such as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley, while providing sonic support for the likes of Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, and Lady Gaga. Daptone’s records—and those of the larger soul revival scene—pay homage but never lip service to the original artists, proving that soul is still culturally relevant, and just as exciting as ever.

It Ain’t Retro charts this revival’s players, sounds, and tectonic shifts over the past twenty years, taking you from dingy clubs where soul-crazed DJs packed the dancefloor, to just uptown where some of the genre’s heaviest musicians jumpstarted the renaissance in a basement studio, and all the way to the White House. This definitive tale of Daptone Records’ soulful revolution chronicles the label’s history, players, and sounds, while dissecting the scene’s cultural underpinnings, which continue to reverberate in pop music. The book also contains rare and unseen images of Daptone artists past and present, including Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields, Antibalas, The Sugarman 3, The Budos Band, and more.

Jessica Lipsky is a journalist and DJ from Brooklyn by way of the San Francisco Bay. She first encountered sweet soul music as a child by obsessively tuning her radio dial and has since extensively covered soul, funk, reggae, and alternative Latin music. Her work on the intersection of culture, music, and politics has appeared in the New York Times, NPR, Billboard, The Recording Academy, Columbia Journalism Review, Vice, Newsweek, Wax Poetics, and LA Weekly. In her free time, she likes to boogaloo down Broadway.