Category: MF Doom

Peanut Butter Wolf talks 15th anniversary of Stones Throw Records

Peanut Butter Wolf
Those who try to pigeonhole Stones Throw Records' catalog are almost guaranteed to get it wrong. Even at Stones Throw's inception, DJ and label boss Peanut Butter Wolf (born Chris Manak) probably wouldn’t have guessed that a tiny hip-hop label born in the Bay Area a decade and a half ago could become a tastemaker, risk taker and archaeological site for genres that included shoegaze, soul and psychedelia. From innovative MCs and producers such as Madlib to retro-styled newcomers such as the Stepkids, no two artists here sound alike.

What started as a means of releasing  Peanut Butter Wolf’s now-classic debut album with the late MC  Charles Hicks (a.k.a Charizma), Stones Throw has grown into a multigeneration, multiracial underground powerhouse prospecting envelope-pushing artists that use classic music from the past, reformatted and twisted to fit the present.

As Peanut Butter Wolf sits down with Pop & Hiss before Stones Throw’s 15-year anniversary party at Exchange L.A. on Thursday, it’s clear that his mission to mine and release the music he loves has been harder -- and more rewarding -- than he'd ever imagined.

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Live review: Kanye West, Queen Latifah highlight 'Common & Friends' benefit show

Comtalib

“I’ve been to a lot of charity events, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Old-school rapper Heavy D surveyed the sold-out Hollywood Palladium crowd gathered for the second annual “Common & Friends,” a star-studded affair that featured appearances from a seemingly endless cavalcade of A-list hip-hop stars to benefit Common's Common Ground charity.

The audience had already seen a series of highlights. De La Soul opened the show with a quick, high-energy set, punctuated by a surprise appearance from masked rapper MF Doom, who ferociously ripped through his verse from “Rock Co.Kane Flow.”

Black Thought and Amir “Questlove” Thompson represented for the Roots, and Ludacris ignited concertgoers with a crowd-pleasing set that culminated with “I Do It for Hip-Hop.” The latter allowed him to introduce Nas, who appears on the recorded version (video here).

After a simmering take on “One Mic,” Nas looked on in appreciation as the night’s host, Common, proceeded to spit most of Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind” verbatim.

The crowd was also treated to an impromptu Black Star reunion, with Mos Def and Talib Kweli hitting the stage together. The two galvanized the audience with solo hits “Umi Says” and “Get By,”  respectively.

But it was Heavy D who offered up one of the most surprising highlights of the show. Among the many unbilled performers of the evening, even those too young to remember Heavy D's late '80s/early '90s hits such as “We Got Our Own Thang” and “Now That We Found Love,” responded to his showmanship and the enduring qualities of the songs.

Word had been circulating throughout the day that one Kanye West would also be among the surprise performers, a fact that Common teased the audience with briefly.

“He’s still going through some things, trying to deal with everything that’s happened because of a choice he made, so he couldn't make it tonight” Common said, obviously referencing West’s meme-generating mike grab from Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMAs. “But he still wanted me to send his love to everyone.”

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MF Doom alert: Madvillain scheduled to perform in Los Angeles

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the Los Angeles chapter of the Hip-Hop Nation collectively holding its breath. All they have to go on is a blunt, simple announcement on the website of L.A. indie hip-hop label Stones Throw:

“Announcing:
Madvillain Live in Los Angeles
November 21, 2009 at the We The People festival

More info coming soon”

First things first: An actual live appearance by masked rapper MF Doom (one-half of Madvillain, alongside L.A. producer Madlib), who in this humble scribe’s honest opinion is among the greatest rappers alive, is akin to a Bigfoot sighting. Particularly over the last couple of years, after a series of scheduled MF Doom shows in 2007 descended into near-riots when the man onstage wearing the mask appeared to be someone other than Daniel Dumile (the rapper’s real name). Adding insult to injury, the supposed impostor seemed to be lip-synching.

“Everything that we do is villain style. Everybody has the right to get it or not get it,” was the closest Doom came to addressing the issue in Rolling Stone earlier this year. “Once I throw it out, it’s there for interpretation. It might’ve seemed like it didn’t go well, but how do we know that wasn’t just pre-orchestrated so that we’re talking about it now?”

Only time will tell whether Doom will end up onstage at this year’s edition of the We the People festival, which last year was a hit-or-miss affair with a solid lineup (including Suicidal Tendencies, Flying Lotus and RZA), but was marred by failing sound equipment and scheduling issues.

Expect more information in the coming weeks. And For Doom fans, fingers crossed.

-- Scott T. Sterling

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