Peanut Butter Wolf appearance at Hippodrome is a coup.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
the year 1986 was a good one in hip-hop. It saw the releases of Run DMC’s Raising Hell, Salt-N-Pepa’s Hot, Cool & Vicious, and the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill. The Juice Crew were steady battling Boogie Down Productions on wax and New York’s influential hip-hop radio station Hot 97 was launched, originally as Hot 103. (Yo! MTV Raps and The Source magazine were coming soon.)
Those heady early developments reverberated from New York to San Jose, sparking the germ of a dream in Chris Manak: to own a record label. He’d been buying hip-hop records with allowance and skimmed lunch money since 1979.
Though that Golden Age has since evolved, Manak, now a celebrated music maestro and record label owner who performs as Peanut Butter Wolf, will reprise that spirit in a Fourth of July show of musical fireworks.
“There’s lots of room for improv,” says the busy DJ. “My whole thing is like KRS-One: Edutainment.”
In college, Manak started on his plans by hooking up with a young MC named Charles Hicks, aka Charizma.
“Charizma was a lot like myself,” Manak divulges on the website of his record label, Stones Throw Records. “He was weird, liked to take chances musically, and had a good knowledge and appreciation of hip-hop.”
After a bitter stint on the Walt Disney hip-hop label Hollywood Basics (“being owned” is how Manak puts it), the duo dropped out of their deal. But before they could plot their next move, Hicks was shot and killed in 1993.
Devastated, Manak walked away from music for a while. But he eventually found his way back, producing looney rapper Kool Keith, contributing to the essential Return of the DJ album, and gaining notoriety as a fresh, hot beatmaker. In 1996, he launched Stones Throw Records; the first release was “My World Premier” by himself and his former friend, Charizma. There would be more music thereafter. Much more.
Stones Throw unleashed waves of music: 12-inches, 7-inches, albums and EPs by stellar artists including MF Doom, Quasimoto, Guilty Simpson, J Dilla (one of the best beat producers, now deceased), Madlib and Aloe Blacc; compilations, remixes, one-offs, videos and reissues; funk, disco, electro, broken beat and unclassifiable stuff. The L.A. record label is firmly planted in the world of underground, but it has reigned as a creative epicenter of “real hip-hop.” A double-CD compilation, Stones Throw: Ten Years is a must-have highlight of its first decade.
After he released his own solo album, My Vinyl Weighs a Ton, named after the Public Enemy song, his name was thrown in the same company as DJ Q-Bert, DJ Shadow and DJ Babu. But he’s not averse to new technology like Serato Scratch Live, which keeps the feel and control of vinyl DJing, but stores music in a digital format on a hardrive. It also lets him experiment with video spinning, in which the video is synched with his scratches, fades and cuts.
Sponsor Red Bull – a marketing force behind many hip-hop shows and events – put up a chunk of cash to bring the (humble) underground music star to the Hippodrome.
For his show last week at L.A.’s Echoplex, he compiled a Michael Jackson tribute video mix – hours after the King of Pop’s demise. He hasn’t plotted Saturday’s show yet: “I don’t plan on it being mainly hip-hop,” he says, “but I’m going to go to the original old-school breaks. And spin video.” And, no doubt, drop devastating beat science that will go back to the future of hip-hop.
PEANUT BUTTER WOLF plays Hippodrome 9pm Saturday, July 4, at 321 Alvarado St., Suite D, Monterey. $10 admission. 646-9244, www.hippclub.com