My latest interest in movies has been the documentary, educational type. Kathryn (wife) is very good at predicting movies as they’re as a problem occurs, calling the climax, resolution, etc but she still loves watching them all the way through. She’ll even force herself through something that she knows sucks, just to do it. Years ago my buddy and I would rent old horror movies and eat taco bell. Since time has passed I’m mostly over that and get antsy watching movies that don’t grab my attention, or help me feel like I’m learning or gaining something. I also have a hard time caring about the characters and displacing them from their ‘actor’ counterparts. Even when there aren’t too famous actors in the roles. However, I do like watching pointless cartoons and comedy sometimes, but that might be my search for joy.
This flick was educational and inspiring. My main exposure to this label came with Madlib and his Beat Konducta series, as well the Yesterday’s New Quintet stuff. It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit but my knowledge of them was fairly surface level, although if you’re going to fall into something that’s some good stuff to fall into. I’ve heard of Madvillian, MF Doom and of course Jay Dilla, but I never really dove into them. I hope to correct this very soon. The flick follows Peanut Butter Wolf, founder of Stones Throw Records through the beginning of the label to when the movie came out.
The label started with PB Wolf’s (because we’re cool together) relationship with Charizma. Wolf and Charizma were best friends until Charizma was shot and killed during a car jacking. After a short period of time Wolf wanted to release the music the 2 of them made and thus started the label to release the material. This eventually grew to him finding Madlib and the different projects that he helped spawn, as well a slew of other releases.
These guys lived in a house in LA and all the hip hop stars as of late would either be hanging out or living there with them. In the house there was a room that was originally built as a bomb shelter, so being a bunch of creative types they setup a studio inside of it and called the studio the Bomb Shelter. They would just hang out at the house making music. One of the main residents was Madlib. That dude is freaking prolific. Looking at his discography you can get an idea just how into music this man is. It’s embarrassing as I don’t know if I started now if I’d ever be able to create and be a part of as much as he is, all the while making it half as good as what he’s done. Dude deserves his own documentary.
For lack of a better word, the climax of the film was the death of Jay Dilla. After Jay Dilla passed Madlib, etc stopped making music like they were. It was a big hit to the musical community to lose him and they all mostly lost it with him. Half of the people interviewed felt like this was where the label turned away from hip hop into other releases, while the other half of the people interviewed thought Stones Throw was always putting out eccentric releases and not just hip hop. It was most likely the bigger hip hop names that were getting press, so once that stopped the focus was back on the more eccentric releases they were doing.
The most inspiring thing to me was the fact that PB Wolf stuck to his guns and never sold out his label. Since opening in 1996 a lot of changes have happened in the distribution of music, but he’s proof of finding your community and catering to them. Near the end of the movie he mentioned that he releases these records for a handful of people and the others he doesn’t really care what they think. Although that is somewhat of a luxury to say at this point, it’s clearly been something that he has stuck to and only releases the music that he’s been interested in releasing.
Overall the movie was great. My biggest complaint was that they could’ve made it 3 hours long and it still would’ve been interesting. The movie mostly touched on the aforementioned artists briefly, and even more briefly touched on the more eccentric releases the label put out. The thing that this really did was inspire in the business and ethic sense as well make me want to dive into their catalog a lot deeper, and don’t bend your beliefs when a scare shows up in your industry.