by Peanut Butter Wolf
In honor of Jeff Weiss' "The Madlib Mystique," which graces the cover of the on-stand issue of L.A. Weekly, we asked Stones Throw Record head honcho Chris "Peanut Butter Wolf" Manak for his five favorite records he's released over the years. The renowned DJ put his own spin on the request.
I've been really fortunate to be able to release whatever I feel like through Stones Throw since 1996. One of the first times I took a chance on something unconventional was Madlib's The Unseen album by his side alias Quasimoto. It was a really fulfilling feeling seeing the effect it had on people -- better than releasing my own album even. But rather than listing the records Stones Throw is most known and appreciated for (like Madlib and Doom's Madvillainy or Dilla's Donuts), I'd rather mention my top five that weren't met with overwhelming accolades or sales, yet which were just as important to me.
In no particular order.
At The Mall
Baron Zen was a one-man band project that was recorded in the late '80s by my next-door neighbor in his bedroom on a four-track. I didn't really like the stuff all that much when he made it, but listening to it nearly 20 years later, I couldn't believe I'd overlooked it. He was listening to nothing but indie hip-hop, but the album is everything but that. Now I live down the street from another music group I work with, so looks like history is repeating itself for me.
Expressions (2012 A.U.)
Dudley is creative on so many levels. His drawings, his lyrics and even his take on life when you have a conversation with him. I didn't love every song on this album, but the great ones more than made up for those I was so-so on. Some moments on it are on par with Marvin Gaye (I don't care who disagrees with me). I had a lot of fun going to the studio with him for this album. From what I remember, a lot of what he created was made on the spot. Not overthinking anything ahead of time, kinda like how I've always approached my label. It wasn't a very private session for him with people coming in and out of the studio, but he was still able to create under those circumstances. I always need to be alone to create music.
Out My Window
This is what makes Stones Throw so fulfilling -- that guys like this wanna put out their records through us. One of the most confident guys I know who actually backs it up with greatness. This is one of the few albums on the label that I had nothing to do with the creation of and allowed to come out as is. I'm usually mixing the songs down, stripping them down, narrowing down a bunch, picking the track order or helping with the artwork -- or all of the above. With Koushik, it was none of the above. And it was definitely the only album in the history of the label that wasn't mastered (on purpose).
Mary Had Brown Hair
I'm always talking about Gary, but why wouldn't I? He's a joy to work with and a joy to share a burger with at Barney's Beanery. It's a joy to watch his film You Think You Really Know Me, a joy to see him play his lounge music at an Italian restaurant in San Diego, a joy to watch a VHS tape of the public access show he hosted in the '80s, and an absolute joy to see him perform a Stones Throw showcase that confuses the audience who came to hear hip-hop. He's a leader and a hero.
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and Homeliss Derilex
These are two vinyl-only EPs I released, so rather than my top five, I'm really giving you my top four and two halves. Both of these were released by Stones Throw many years after they were recorded, but they're technically not reissues because neither was ever heard before. Franklin Thompson is a professor, a reverend, a doctor, a singer and a musician, so I never quite know how to address him. His message is spiritual, but I don't feel it's too preachy. The sense of humor is there too, which I always like in a record when done subtly. Homeliss Derilex were one of the reasons I started Stones Throw. I actually released a single by them back then in '96, but the Automator snatched them up for his label, so I never got to release their album, which was my plan back then. I did get to eventually release this EP seven years later though.