Stones Throw


by Chris Bell, Josh Campbell, Laura Connair, and Thomas Stalknecht

The Los Angeles, California based Stones Throw Records was founded in 1996 as a vehicle for founder DJ Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak) to pursuit his passion: music [1]. Since its inception, Stones Throw has amassed an impressive catalogue from some of the most critically acclaimed names in hip hop [2].

The seeds of the label’s flowering were planted in Manak’s childhood, when he would spend his allowance on new records. He soon found himself getting into hip hop and DJing, even managing put out a record of his own with PMR Records while in college. Not long after, Manak met and became good friends with Charles Hicks, aka Charizma, and they quickly became a group. Together, they shopped themselves around looking to get signed by a label, and they were, by Walt Disney’s short-lived Hollywood Basics. Unfortunately, Disney’s lack of experience in hip hop and the lack of creative freedom afforded to Wolf and Charizma ultimately led to nothing; the duo was able to get out of their deal with Hollywood Basics just before the label folded [1].

Two months after leaving Disney, in December of 1993, Charizma was killed in a mugging [2]. Heartbroken at the lost of his friend, Manak initially quit music altogether. However, he eventually found music to be a way of healing, and he was soon DJing and producing again, with the goal of getting the work he and Charizma had done released. He would release solo work in the form of compilations, instrumentals, and even an EP on Southpaw Records, “Step On Our Egos.” Spurred on by his own success and the desire to release Charizma’s work, Manak started Stones Throw Records in 1996, releasing Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf’s My World Premier [1].

As an artist with experience being signed to a label, Manak has made it a point to work closely with the artists he signs, involving them in all aspects of the process, from the music to setting up budgets. After recouping costs, the label splits profits with the artists 50/50. Also, as a DJ, Manak is sensitive to and committed to addressing the demand for vinyl and break beat records, instrumental versions of albums, and the preservation of 45’s [1].

From the very beginning, Manak’s business method has been rather simple: he releases what he likes and believes in. So far, that ideology has worked. It’s also responsible for the signing of major figures in the hip hop community and the label’s impressive catalogue, which includes Lootpack, Madlib, J Rocc, and the late J Dilla to name only a few [2].

Lootpack

The Lootpack – trio DJ Romes, Wildchild, and Madlib – originally signed to Crate Digga’s Palace, a label started by Madlib’s father, Otis Jackson, Sr., to promote Lootpack as well as a few other artists, including Jackson’s other son, Oh No [3]. The Lootpack first arrived on the scene on Tha Alkaholiks’ 1993 debut 21 & Over [4]. The group’s own debut EP, Ill Psych Move, in 1996 caught the attention of Peanut Butter Wolf, and the group eventually signed with Stones Throw and released Soundpieces: Da Antidote in 1999 [3]. While a follow up has yet to come, the three have gone on to release solo projects, and the three continue to collaborate on an assortment of projects, including their own [5].

Madlib

Madlib (Otis Jackson, Jr.) [6] quickly launched into the midst of a seemingly never-ending work flow right after the release of Da Antidote with the Lootpack. 1999 saw the debut the first of his many alter egos, Quasimoto, with the release of the critically acclaimed The Unseen. The next year, Madlib introduced his jazz-based hip hop quintet, Yesterday’s New Quintet, with Angles Without Edges. He played all the instruments himself, posing under fictitious personas. He soon began to expand on his exploration of jazz by further expanding the Yesterday’s Universe with “solo” albums for each of the original members over the next several years [7].

Still not content to rest, Madlib would go on to produce for and collaborate with an assortment of artists on and off the Stones Throw roster, including Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu [6]. 2003 was one of his busiest years, with the collaborations Jaylib and Madvillain (with legendary producer/emcees J Dilla and MF DOOM respectively) that birthed Champion Sound and Madvillainy, both critical hits, as well as a separate tribute and remix album celebrating Blue Note jazz entitled Shades of Blue, released on Blue Note [6].

J Rocc

Jason Jackson, aka J Rocc, began his legacy as a DJ with a group named PSK in California in the 1980s [8]. In 1992, Rocc established the Beat Junkies in Orange County, California with Melo-D and Rhettmatic, and would enlist new recruits in the likes of Curse, Icy Ice, Symphony, & What?!. Shortkut, D-Styles, Red-Jay, Havik, Tommy Gun, DJ Babu, and newest member Mr. Choc. The group has gone on to win many awards and have worked with major acts like Jurassic 5, Cypress Hill, and Dilated Peoples [9]. J Rocc has continued with his own productions for Stones Throw, including a solo album currently in the works. He was also DJ for Madlib and J Dilla for live Jaylib shows, and he collaborated with Madlib for the recent Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to J Dilla [8].

J Dilla

Throughout the mid 1990s, J Dilla grew to become a major hip hop talent, with a catalogue of mixtapes, singles, and remixes for artists like Janet Jackson, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, and Q-Tip. In 2003, he traded beats with Madlib in Los Angeles in a collaboration that became known as Jaylib, Champion Sound. Unfortunately, in 2005, it was revealed that Jay Dee was suffering from a rare blood disease, TTP, and potentially Lupus. He died in February of 2006, three days after the release of his last album, Donuts, on Stones Throw [10].

The Music

Stones Throw Vids

Stones Throw Sampler

References

1. http://www.stonesthrow.com/
2. McDonald, Heather. Stones Throw Records Profile. About.com http://musicians.about.com/od/indielabels/p/stonesthrowrecs.htm
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MF_DOOM
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tha_Alkaholiks
5. http://www.stonesthrow.com/lootpack
6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewc1hixzYPY
7. http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib
8. http://www.stonesthrow.com/jrocc
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Rocc
10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lootpack

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