Sergio Urida and Bombassmuzik, the last of the South LA record stores

Sergio Urida at his store, Bombassmuzik, in South LA | Andy Vasoyan

Sergio Urida at his store, Bombassmuzik, in South LA | Andy Vasoyan

At the corner of Vernon Avenue and Main Street less than a mile from the 110 freeway, the terrain is a mix of small housing and smaller shops, blending slowly from residential to commercial districts. On the very edge of that border, sandwiched between a now-defunct flooring store and a combination barbershop-taco stand, is Bombassmuzik, one of the last record stores in South Los Angeles.

Bombass is owned by Sergio Urida, a native of the Figueroa Corridor neighborhood who lives within biking distance of the shop that he’s kept alive for 16 years.

Urida works behind a counter on which he’s taped pictures of him posing with Ice Cube and other rap notables, as well as an anime-style drawing of himself that he says a customer gave him.

In the pictures, Urida’s meticulously center-parted hair is all black, dating to a time before his gray streaks set in, and to a time when Urida’s shop wasn’t his life’s focus.

“I always wanted to do something in the music business,” Urida said. “For me, music was – is — life, and all my jobs have had to do with music. That’s why I started at the radio station.”

That was 1510 AM, a station in the Inland Empire now owned by the Dodgers. Prior to that, however, it was a Spanish language station where Urida spent four years before changing careers.

“I got into broadcasting school and they said I had to pick between Spanish and English, so I wasn’t sure, and I just went with Spanish,” Urida recalled. “I didn’t know that four years later that decision wouldn’t matter much anyway.”

When Urida heard the radio station was going to be sold, he quit the full-time night shift, and began focusing on his store.

“I got into the business when I was young, around 24,” Urida said, adding that most record store owners at the time were older. “After a while things started changing, and because I was young, it was wasn’t too hard for me to change too,” he said.

Are vinyl records making a comeback? Click to hear record store owners in Echo Park, South L.A. and South Gate discuss the trade… 

“Things changing” is a bit of an understatement. In his 16 years at Bombass, Urida has seen many record stores fold. He has also seen the rise and fall of CDs, the comeback of vinyl (a development he calls “amazing”), and an upswing of home beat-makers and rappers, of which he is a fan.

“With all the new technologies… if you can produce your own music from your house, garage, studio, whatever, and get a music video, you can get that recognition and get big, it’s amazing,” he said.

It’s not just the music that has evolved, however. Bombass originally started out as “just records, man, that’s it.” But over the years, the store had to move on to stay afloat. It now sells not only music accessories, such as headphones, memory cards and batteries, but also its own in-house brand of clothing, posters, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia, as well as herbal supplements and phone accessories.

“Over the years, to survive, we sort of became a lifestyle store,” Urida said. “We’ve got something for every aspect of the, I guess you’d call it ‘urban,’ lifestyle.”

The store is now branded as “BAM!: A Lifestyle Store.” But according to Urida, the store’s mission hasn’t changed with the times.

“We’re doing what we need to survive in addition, sure,” he said. “But if you wanna come in and buy a record or something, that’s good enough for me.”

Learn more about L.A. record store culture in a multimedia piece by Andy Vasoyan.

Bombassmuzik is located at 203 E. Vernon Ave.

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