Stones Throw is so “influential” that it has invalidated the word. You can’t call the Highland Park label “legendary,” “iconic” or “eclectic” without summoning cliché. It has been (accurately) described that way too often for too long.
This month, Peanut Butter Wolf’s eternally evolving experiment celebrates its 20th birthday. In that span, Stones Throw has earned the right to be described without the need for qualifiers or hyperbole. Stones Throw is just Stones Throw, a genre unto itself, one of the greatest independent labels in history, encompassing hip-hop, jazz, reggae, soul, funk, psychedelic rock and whatever Gary Wilson is. It’s the musical equivalent of the obscure ethnic restaurant that gets discovered and suddenly finds its culinary inventions copied in Michelin-starred kitchens.
In honor of its platinum anniversary, I’m ranking the 20 best Stones Throw albums of all time — because, to quote Madvillainy, “The days of yesterday are all numbered in sum.”
20. J Rocc, Some Cold Rock Stuf (2011)
Psych-rock, trip-hop and filthy breaks that proved that one of the best DJs alive could produce equally well.
19. Koushik, Out My Window (2008)
If Four Tet, DJ Shadow and Dilla smoked black tar opium in the Canadian tundra, it might sound like this.
18. Homeboy Sandman, First of a Living Breed (2012)
A rap clinic from the cerebral New York ex–law student — as durable and well engineered as the Queensboro Bridge.
17. Jonwayne, Rap Album One (2013)
The La Habra native embodied what his hero, Bukowski, once said: “Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”
16. Anika, Anika (2010)
Imagine Nico backed by Portishead, covering Yoko Ono and Bob Dylan, dropping industrial Molotov cocktail dub grooves.
15. Bruce Haack, Farad: The Electric Voice (2010)
Seminal anthology from the J Dilla inspiration, eccentric children’s music composer and vocoder fountainhead.
14. Arabian Prince, Innovative Life: The Anthology 1984-1989 (2008)
If Kim Nazel got left out of the N.W.A biopic, Stones Throw always understood the importance of his crucial role in L.A. electro-funk and hip-hop.
13. NxWorries, Yes, Lawd! (2016)
Releasing one of this year’s best soul albums, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge became the label’s best duo since MF Doom and Madlib.
12. Lootpack, Soundpieces: Da Antidote (1999)
Led by Madlib, the Oxnard trio defined the West Coast underground with weed raps, bug-out pranks and dusty sampledelica.
11. Peanut Butter Wolf & Charizma, Circa 1990-1993 (2014)
The post-adolescent collected works of Wolf and the tragically slain Charizma — a reminder of not just what could have been but how good they already were.
10. Jaylib, Champion Sound (2003)
To quote “The Red”: “Madlib and Dilla is the illest.”
9. Yesterdays New Quintet, Angles Without Edges (2001)
Long before myopic journalists hyped jazz’s return, Madlib reminded the world it never really left.
8. Dam-Funk, Invite the Light (2015)
If we ever make contact with aliens, this sci-fi modern funk opus is our best bet to establish amicable relations.
7. Egyptian Lover, 1983-1988 (2016)
Tremendously funky anthology, timeless as the pyramids and freaky as Cleopatra.
6. Quasimoto, The Unseen (2000)
Best use of mushrooms since Super Mario Bros. 3.
5. Madlib, Medicine Show: The Brick (2012)
The World Book encyclopedia in beat form.
4. Madlib, Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to … (Dil Cosby and Dil Withers Suites) (2008)
An elegiac lament for Dilla, his recently deceased partner. You can have Mozart’s “Requiem,” I’ll take this.
3. Dam-Funk, Toeachizown (2009)
This resurrected funk as the Lord of Light did to Jon Snow.
2. J Dilla, Donuts (2006)
The best argument for the belief that human beings have souls.
1. Madvillain, Madvillainy (2004)
If Doom and Madlib win a joint Nobel Prize in 2044, the committee will point to this masterpiece as a major reason why.
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STONES THROW SUPERFEST | Sycamore Grove Park, 4702 N Figueroa St., Highland Park | Sat., Nov. 5, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. | Free | All ages | www.stonesthrow.com
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com.