A History of Real Hip Hop
In the late 1980s, nearly a decade after its conception, the cultural and rhythmic expressions of hip hop had blossomed into an artistic phenomenon spreading from its emergence in the boroughs of New York City, to the suburban neighborhoods of the West Coast. With a much greater sense of mainstream popularity, emcees, DJs, and hip hop producers began sprouting up all over the U.S., in essence, broadening the genre’s musical and stylistic boundaries.
As the hip hop movement started gaining momentum on a much larger scale, an inspired teenager by the name of Chris Manak, aka DJ Peanut Butter Wolf, was making mix-tapes and recording demos with friends from his San Jose high school. This was around the time he decided to chase his dream, to produce hip hop records and release them on a label of his own.
While attending college, where he would successfully acquire a degree in Business Marketing, PB Wolf would produce his first single “You Can’t Swing This” by a local emcee known as Lyrical Prophecy; the record would be released through a label run by a college radio station (KSJS) in San Jose, California. Due to budgetary restraints, the record was pressed to only 500 copies with the artwork cut and pasted by hand directly onto the sleeve. And, although he had about half of the copies left sitting around in his dorm room, he had accomplished what he set out to do, and actually released his own record!
The release of 1989s “You Can’t Swing This” was a boost of morale for the up-and-coming hip hop producer, and that same year he would meet and team up with a talented 16 year old emcee named Charles Hicks, better known as Charizma. Although they differed in age, PB Wolf being 19 at the time, the two had an undeniable chemistry and shared the same knowledge and appreciation for ‘real hip hop.’
Within three years, the two were gaining notoriety for their live performances around the Bay Area, and began releasing some very impressive demos with their own unique style and sound. The young eager duo, now known as Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf, would land a record deal with the Disney-owned record label Hollywood Basic. But, as the sun seemed to be shining on this promising new addition to the hip hop scene, things would begin to change all too quickly.
The next year would prove to be one of the most difficult for PB Wolf. Hollywood Basic would confirm its reputation as being a truly negligent hip hop record label, to say the least, and folded before the duo could even release a full album. During that same year, Charizma was tragically killed in a mugging on December 16, 1993, leaving PB Wolf with a whole album’s worth of tracks recorded with Charizma, as well as a greater sense of grief that would lead to his temporary departure from the music scene.
In 1994, PB Wolf made his way back into the Bay Area hip hop scene after releasing a previously unreleased recording of Charizma, entitled “Just Like A Test”, to be part of a compilation album assembled by Bomb Hip Hop Magazine. The album would feature the likes of Blackalicious, DJ Q-bert, the Mystic Journeymen, and of course Charizma. After the popularity of the compilation, PB Wolf would begin producing and DJing full-time, releasing instrumental beats such as “Peanut Butter Breaks” and the acclaimed “Return of the DJ”, as well as production work for Kool Keith’s first single as a solo artist.
Becoming a major player in the Bay Area hip hop scene, PB Wolf decided to fulfill his childhood dream and construct an independent record label based on his personal interests, instead of worrying about what other people might like, and finally release songs he and Charizma had worked so hard to create.
So, in 1996, the confident DJ/Producer with a business marketing degree convinces a record distributor, the now defunct Nu Gruv Alliance, that he has what it takes to start a label and release genre-bending hip hop to dedicated fans all over the world; (Stones Throw is now partners with Caroline Distribution). His dream became a reality with the incarnation of the Los Angeles based independent hip hop label now recognized as Stones Throw Records.
Stones Throw is a record label that cares about their artists, and because all profits are split after expenses, the label and the artists collectively decide how much money to spend on promoting their records. Also, because it is the vision of a DJ, Stones Throw is committed to releasing vinyl LPs, along with breakbeat records, and instrumental versions of the artists’ albums.
Crate Diggin’ Artists
After the tragic death of 20 year old aspiring emcee Charizma, best friend and producer Peanut Butter Wolf devoted his life and creation of Stones Throw Records to release the tracks they had worked on prior to his passing.
The “M-Town EP” and full-length “Big Shots” were recorded between 1987 and 1993, but were finally remastered and released to the public through Stones Throw on November 18, 2003. Although both records were a stylistic throw back to early 90s era hip hop, “Big Shots” was well received by critics and fans, reaching number 3 on CMJ Magazine’s hip-hop chart. Playful themes ranged from teenage dating, love of free-styling, and apple juice breaks. This is truly a timeless album made by two best friends in hopes of making it big.
J Dilla, aka Jay Dee
James DeWitt Yancey, better known as the legendary Detroit DJ and producer J Dilla, remains one of the industry’s most influential hip hop producers and beatmakers. Dilla has been recognized for his production work on critically acclaimed albums for the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde, Slum Village, Common, and Erykah Badu; just to name a few. And, as his popularity began to flourish in the early 2000s, Dilla’s solo career also took off, allowing him to release his first solo album entitled “Welcome 2 Detroit.”
The next step in his career led him to a collaboration with fellow beatmaker and hip hop producer Madlib under the moniker Jaylib. The duo would release the critically acclaimed 43-track “Champion Sound” through Stones Throw Records in October of 2003. Then, on the day of his 32nd Birthday, Dilla would release his final album and masterpiece entitled “Donuts” on Stones Throw Records.
Although “Donuts” was recognized as his magnum opus, Dilla wouldn’t get to celebrate its commercial success because just three days after its release, on February 10, 2006, he would pass away after years of complications with a rare blood disease. The late J Dilla will always be remembered as one of the most loved and revered producers in hip hop, and will most likely continue to release records posthumously throughout the next few years.
Born into a family of music lovers and musicians, Otis Jackson Jr., aka Madlib/Beat Konducta, has become one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed hip hop producers of the 2000s. He began his career in the early 1990s producing beats and MCing with his high school buddies, DJ Romes and Wildchild, in the hip hop group Lootpack. Madlib’s father would create an independent record label in 1996 called Crate Diggas Palace Records to promote the group, and helped Lootpack release an EP entitled “Ill Psyche Move.” After the release of the EP, Lootpack caught the attention of newly established record label head Peanut Butter Wolf, who would sign the group to Stones Throw and promote their 1999 full-length LP “Soundpieces: Da Antidote.”
Madlib would go on to fulfill an extensive solo career with his first release being a quite unique side-project that would reveal his alter ego known as Quasimoto. This project consisted of Madlib creating the beats and MCing, alongside an MC with an undeniably distinctive voice known as Lord Quas. The ‘duo’ would go on to release two critically acclaimed full-length LPs: 2000s “The Unseen” and 2005s “The Further Adventures of Lord Quas.” These two bizarrely exquisite albums described Lord Quas’ interests in digging for records, smoking blunts, and cruising around looking for trouble, while Madlib created some of the illest beats known to man.
The inspiring hip hop producer would go on to create the rap duo known as Madvillain, a unique collaboration with the emcee and producer MF Doom, a cult-favorite in underground hip hop. The two would release 2004s celebrated “Madvillainy” to an eager fan-base.
Madlib would go on to produce songs for Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Mos Def. He would also release a plethora of experimental mix tapes such as “Madlib’s Medicine Show” and various recordings as Beat Konducta, as well as a remix album of songs from the legendary Blue Note Records entitled “Shades of Blue.” As his skills as an accomplished DJ, producer, and MC continue to grow, so does his infamous ‘4-ton record collection.’
Peanut Butter Wolf
As noted before, Peanut Butter Wolf has become the body and soul of Stones Throw Records, overseeing the releases of Lootpack’s “Soundpieces…”, Quasimoto’s “The Unseen”, Yesterday’s New Quintet’s “Angles Without Edges”, and many more groundbreaking releases. He has also released numerous mixtapes such as “Badmeaningood Vol. 3”, as well as 1999s full-length LP “My Vinyl Weighs a Ton” featuring PB Wolf as DJ and producer, and various artists from the Stones Throw roster. He has also collaborated with Adult Swim to release two unique compilation albums under the name Chrome Children featuring an assemblage of artists from his roster.
Stones Throw Doc for National TV France
Interview with Stones Throw Artists
Competition Gets None
It’s really inspiring to see a teenager with a dream of one day releasing music that he loves ultimately make that dream come true, and strive to create one of the most unique and influential hip hop record labels in the world. And, although only four artists were mentioned above, Stones Throw Records has an enormous roster full of dedicated and talented musicians that you can check out for yourself at your local record store, or on their website at Stonesthrow.com. As the label continues to release new up-and-coming hip hop and experimental artists, they also seem to find new and interesting ways to promote and market their records; which is really fundamental for any record label’s continued success and popularity. I would like to personally congratulate Peanut Butter Wolf, and wish the label continued success as it releases genre-crushing hip hop to enthusiastic fans like me.
For more information on Stones Throw Records and its full roster, follow the links below.
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