Yet another legendary music retailer is preparing to shut its doors.

Hip-hop vinyl retailer/distributor Fat Beats announced the closing of its last two retail stores in New York and Los Angeles today, shutting doors on a hip-hop institution that championed independent music and culture for more than 16 years.

Though Fat Beats will continue business as an online retailer and record label, the closing of its retail shops marks the true end of an era. Fat Beats was at once a performance space and sanctuary for hip-hop heads, hosting countless in-store appearances and ciphers.

"The closing of Fat Beats is just like one of my friends passing away," lamented DJ Premier. "They promoted vinyl at its highest degree for the culture of good music and that makes it more difficult to say goodbye." The shop also employed future industry leaders, MC's, DJ's and producers, from DJ Eclipse, DJ Eli, Babu, J.Rocc and Rhettmatic to Ill Bill, Breeze Brewin and Cipha Sounds.

"Anyone that's ever been to Fat Beats knows that it was much more then a record store," longtime manager and underground hip hop king DJ Eclipse told The BoomBox. "Other places claim to host 'where hip-hop lives,' but we really did live, eat and breathe Hip Hop. It was a meeting place for artists, DJs and customers alike. We took pride in promoting and pushing the indie artist that the average person may not have known about. Unfortunately in these times we are suffering from both the state of the music business and the economy. As sad as I am to see the retail portion of the company close I'll always remember the great in-stores we had here and fun times working with the staff."

While Fat Beats owner Joe Abajian claims to be "exploring options for alternate retail locations in the future," and the label will continue to release albums by its artists, including Black Milk, Ill Bill, Tru Master & KRS-One, former Fat Beats A&R Bill Sharp contends that the retail store's closing is indicative of a much larger issue for record sales.

"Record stores -- especially vinyl-driven shops like Fat Beats -- had the power to validate new artists and act as an incubator for new acts to grow into something bigger," Sharp told The BoomBox. "They also acted as community centers where people could meet each other and find out what else is going on within that scene or subculture. Now all of that has migrated to the internet and it's really sad."

"Stores with very storied pasts are closing all over the world, and at an unforgiving pace," Sharp continued. "There used to be over a dozen great shops in London's Soho district, and now there are only a couple. In New York City, even a few years ago, there used to be specialty stores all over the East Village that sold reggae or house or drum&bass or all of the above -- they're all gone."

Visit Fat Beats and support your favorite artists while you still can. Fat Beats NYC closes doors Sept. 4. The Los Angeles location closes on Sept. 18.