Having DJ’ed around the world, formed one of the most influential labels in recent memory and scouted some of the finest soul and hip-hop talent of this century, it’s fair to say that Peanut Butter Wolf’s legacy weighs as much as his deep-running record collection. If you’re unfamiliar with the incredible story of Stones Throw records, we highly recommend watching the documentary Our vinyl weighs a ton, but if you need a quick, five track introduction to their founder, here are five killer cuts to help tell the Peanut Butter Wolf story. Stones throw’s head honcho bring his unique DJ/AV show to Band on the Wall on 9th September.
Back in the early nineties, PBW was a beatmaker, working alongside the promising MC and fellow San Jose native, Charizma. The pair were recording, had signed a record deal (albeit an obstructive one) and were gaining a local following. Then, at the tender age of 20, Charizma was killed in a random act of violence. Shocked by his sudden passing, Peanut Butter Wolf took a break from music. When he eventually felt ready to release some of his and Charizma’s music, the labels he approached weren’t very receptive, so he founded his own. Stones Throw records. The rest, as they say, is history. Methods is a standout track from their 4xLP anthology: beautiful, ethereal keys, a crunchy beat, some wicked scratching and Charizma’ bright and springy flow.
Peanut Butter Breaks is the first PBW beat tape, originally released in 1994 and reissued, minus two original tracks, by Stones Throw in 2001. A deep yet understated release, it contains a wealth of below-the-radar rhythms, demonstrating Wolf’s assured command of the MPC and his keen ear for a sample. Chain Gang’s downtempo break has the subtlest echoes of conga and on top of it he stacks warm electric bass, a flute loop, keys and subtle, suspended electric guitar chords. A beautiful highlight from the PBW back catalogue.
As he told HipHopDX in 2016, when Peanut Butter Wolf first met Madlib, he was torn as to whether he should invest his energy into his own music, or that of the artist he felt was making greater music than he. He first heard Lootpack, the group Madlib was producing for, on college radio while working as a record distributor. There was a mutual admiration between the pair and Wolf moved out to L.A. to focus Stones Throw’s attention on Madlib’s music. The Quasimoto sound came to PBW’s attention by accident, Madlib erroneously leaving a track on a tape he gave him. Wolf was drawn to the experimental beats and quirkiness of the pitched up rhymes, so asked to put out his Quasimoto material. The Unseen is the debut Quas release, and Low Class Conspiracy encapsulates that edgy and experimental sound hip-hop fans have grown to love.
When Mayer Hawthorne relocated to L.A. from Detroit, he knew virtually no one. He then connected with Peanut Butter Wolf, who rather than investing in his hip-hop ambitions, took an interest in his soul demos. Hawthorne ran with it and they released A Strange Arrangement in 2009. The first single from it sound so natural and accomplished, its hard to imagine Hawthorne coming out with anything else. Therein lies the excellence of Wolf’s A&R.
Prophet was one of those underground eighties artists who released an incredible record, didn’t receive the attention it warranted and faded into obscurity, leaving few cues to their whereabouts. Peanut Butter Wolf was one of the few guys with an original copy of Prophet’s 1984 record Right On Time, so when PPU records connected with Prophet and brought him back to the scene, it was an obvious move for Wolf to work with him. Today, the artist is revelling in a wave of popularity: Tyler the Creator praising his new singles and Sudan Archives co-directing his music videos. His newfound success is testament to the strength of Stones Throw in 2018.