Stones Throw Records, Peanut Butter Wolf’s imprint, is one of the most influential record labels in Hip-Hop. Kind of like Rawkus was to New-York and Rhymesayers is to the Midwest and today I will be writing about 10 great Stones Throw releases.
PB Wolf started Stones Throw in 1996 as a means to honour his best friend, the late rapper Charizma, with whom he had collaborated a lot before he was murdered in San Francisco, for not giving over his car keys to some thugs.
This tragedy was the start of what is now one of the best record labels period. Obviously, this is my personal opinion, but no one else released I Need A Dollar by Aloe Blacc. That alone sets the tone.
Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – My World Premiere (1996)
This was what started it all. My World Premiere is the first official Stones Throw Records release to hit the shelves and decks. I only discovered Charizma in my teens – around 2004-2005 – through a CD sampler in a French magazine focused on American Rap. The track featured was Methods which sees Charizma drop some dope rhymes – as a real MC would do – over a tranquil and atmospheric beat by PB Wolf.
When I heard the song My World Premiere, it showed me what kind of rapper I wanted to be if I had kept on rapping. Charizma’s flow is smooth and energetic while his rhymes are witty and fun.
Lootpack – Soundpieces: Da Antidote! (1999)
Soundpieces: Da Antidote! was the first Stones Throw release I ever bought. It was also Lootpack’s first and only album, which is highly regarded in the Hip-Hop scene as it fully introduced Madlib’s craft as a producer and rapper alongside Wildchild’s great lyricism.
The other important thing to know about Lootpack is that – like Jesse Ducker writes – “this release solidified their position as the cornerstone of Stones Throw.” This allowed Chris Manak (PB Wolf) to sign a roster of artists related to the pack. This leads the label to release highly praised albums like Madvillain’s Madvillainy and J Dilla’s Donuts.
Madvillain – Madvillainy (2004)
In 2004, Madlib collaborated with your favourite rappers favourite rapper, the great almighty villain MF DOOM.
Since his first album – Operation Doomsday – DOOM was considered to be the most notable MC of the new millennium. He was able to show the – masked – face of a very prolific MC with a bassy voice, slow flow and unparalleled lyricism.
On the other hand, the Beat Konducta – Madlib – had proven his worth through his extensive work with Lootpack, J Dilla on the Jaylib album Champion Sound as well as with his first solo record – on legendary jazz record label Blue Note – Shades of Blue.
On Madvillainy, both artists are at their best, releasing the best rap album ever made because it sounds like an audio movie filled with plot twists, intricate references and cameos.
Yesterday’s New Quintet – Angles Without Edges (2001)
There’s a point in life when you start to get bored or tired with the things that you do. Madlib, reached that point sometime around 2000 when he got tired with Hip-Hop and wanted to make Jazz.
Angles Without Edges took Peanut Butter Wolf by surprise because Madlib didn’t play any instruments before making the album. However, he learned to play every single piece of the gear featured on the album and made up alter-egos or fictional musicians who were all played by Madlib.
With that record, Madlib showed the world that as an artist, you do not have to stick to one thing and that you can explore whatever you want, whenever you want.
Angles Without Edges was released on the unfortunate date of Sept. 11, 2001, and was ignored by virtually everyone, except those who listened and loved it.
J Dilla – Donuts (2006)
J Dilla is a master producer when it comes to Hip-Hop. His work with artists like The Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu and most notably Slum Village precedes.
Donuts is the album that solidified his work and Stones Throw’s reputation for putting out great records. Unfortunately, three days after the release of the album – which was also his 32nd birthday – Jay Dee past away after years of struggle with a rare blood disease.
That second tragedy in Manak’s life inspired a period of soul-searching for Stones Throw, diverging from the Hip-Hop catalogue into a wider range of music genres.
James Pants – Welcome (2008)
James Pants was an intern at Stones Throw before releasing his first album Welcome.
This album is – by the way – in my top 50 releases ever! That is mainly because of the variety of influences and sonic explorations. Welcome is to the definition of what Stones Throw is today. Part weird, part savvy. Part new, part old. What I love about that album is that you can sense that James had fun making these songs. You can truly sense the passion he has for music and its multiple genres and styles.
Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (2009)
Mayer Hawthorne originally went to LA to work on his Hip-Hop music – as DJ Haircut. It didn’t turn quite the way he wanted. Chris Manak was mainly interested in his Soul material.
When Hawthorne received a recording deal for what he thought was a single release, he realized Peanut Butter Wolf wanted a full-length. He had a lot of work to do since he ended up writing and recording just about every part on the album himself. Mayer Hawthorne showcased great production for a Neo-Traditional Soul album.
The good news is that A Strange Arrangement was very well received and brought a new dimension to the LA imprint. It showed even more versatility and eclecticism.
7 Days of Funk – 7 Days of Funk (2013)
In 2013, Stones Throw released the track Fade Away by a duo called 7 Days Of Funk. The track is smooth, slow and the lead vocals sound familiar. That is because the artist singing is no other but the one and only Snoop Dogg!
Snoop Dogg on Stones Throw is most definitely the most unexpected release in Stones Throw’s massive catalogue. The album was made through an entire week and is the first album the Long Beach native has worked on with a single producer since his debut album, Doggystyle in 1993.
Both him and Dâm-Funk were able to deliver a great album that fits in the lineage of Parliament, Funkadelic and George Clinton. Thankfully for us, that was not the only Funk we got from Stones Throw.
Tuxedo – Tuxedo (2015)
After three solo albums on other labels, Mayer Hawthorne returns to Stones Throw with a new project: Tuxedo. A Disco-Funk duo with the Hip-Hop producer Jake One.
That first album speaks dearly to me as my mother used to play a lot of Funk and Disco when hosting parties at home. Tuxedo is the ultimate party album. Like it says on their website “Tuxedo’s music is a modern testament to unity and positivity in trying times. It is a reminder that the dance floor will always be there to welcome you, whoever you are.”
Various Artists – Our Vinyls Weigh A Ton (2014)
Last but not least, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton – the album accompanying the documentary of the same title – is a great release. It serves as a “Very Best Of” of what the label put out over the years. Featuring tracks by pretty much everyone signed on the label this is the album you want to listen to if you’re still wondering if you’ll dig the label’s catalogue or not.
I know for a fact that Emilie and I have listened to that album a lot of times and we still do because it is just great. Madlib’s Cues serve as little interludes. Vex Ruffin’s Technology and Baron Zen’s Gotta Get Rid Of Rick are two great Electro-Punk songs that you should definitely check out.
What I’m trying to say is that Stones Throw has released a lot of great music over the last 26 years. This means that there is a fair number of releases to listen to if you really want to dig deeper into the label’s catalogue.
For that reason, I have made a Spotify playlist featuring my favourite songs from the label, here or below.