Vinyl-hoarder and label-runner Peanut Butter Wolf is about to the hit the decks at Ophelia’s this Saturday for a night of soul-tinged beats and rare cuts. The founder of the West Coast hip-hop label Stones Throw Records, Peanut Butter Wolf injected soul samples back into hip-hop and helped establish a sound aesthetic for West Coast underground hip-hop. The seminal record label elevated West Coast hip-hop in the late ’90s and early aughts, at a time when the only major moves happening in the West Coast underground came in the form of Souls of Mischief.
Through Stones Throw, Peanut Butter Wolf — whose real name is Chris Manak — developed and helped establish the careers of artists such as Madlib, J Dilla, Quasimoto, Madvillain, Dam-Funk, Mayer Hawthorne, Knxwledge, Mild High Club, Mndsgn, Anderson .Paak and many other artists. Kanye West and Flying Lotus were some of the label’s first interns, which launched in 1996.
Notorious for his massive record collection, which fills shelf after shelf in his sprawling east L.A house, Peanut Butter Wolf has established himself as the true soul-master. He is known for his themed vinyl sets — such as a 12-hour extended set on Boiler Room — and his unique VJ sets that incorporate decades’ worth of rare and vintage film footage. He has since returned to Boiler Room several times and has yet to disappoint listeners. His most recent mix was filled with all sorts of gems, as per usual. One record incorporated in the mix was Infra Red Funk’s, “What’s Happening Now,” a lush, sweet soul record from 1984 with a very cool and grooving beat. The release is only one of two records released by the group, and according to Discogs, the last time a copy of this record exchanged hands was in 2017 — for a meager sum of $75.
The documentary film, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton, explores the story behind the label and Peanut Butter Wolf’s evolution in sound. As an adolescent, he would take the lunch money his mother gave him and, with his childhood friend, would sneak off to buy records. Peanut Butter Wolf and his friend each took turns purchasing a record, pooling their collection together to have an impressive variety of records. Peanut Butter Wolf started off listening to disco and soul. According to the documentary, he started branching out and listening to more new wave and punk as he entered high school. It was around then when he met his future collaborator, Jeff Jank — a key talking head in the documentary — who still serves as the art director of Stones Throw to this day.
The film features interviews with industry heavyweights like Kanye, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, Tyler the Creator and A-trak, who all speak to the fact that Stones Throw transformed underground hip-hop. The rapper Common refers to the album Champion Sound by Jaylib — the collaboration between producers Madlib and J Dilla — as a “hip-hop monument.”
And who will ever forget the impact of MF Doom, who injected his beats with comic book references and campy, superhero samples? The roleplaying elements of Doom’s music have created a mask, both literal and physical, protecting rapper and listener alike by creating a fictitious world as a sense of escape.