Stones Throw is not just an independent Hip Hop label, it is ‘The’ independent Hip Hop label, and when it was announced that a documentary focused on the history of the label and it’s flagship acts, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the home of Madlib, MF DOOM, J Dilla and a host of other incredible artists.
The film starts by exploring the life of Stones Throw’s quietly enigmatic leader Peanut Butter Wolf, stories of his youth and introduction to music told by his relatives and childhood friends over a backdrop of nostalgic home videos and beautiful sweeping shots of California. The story of Stones Throw is heavily intertwined with the story of PBW’s close friend and collaborator Charizma, a rapper whose life and unfortunate untimely death served as a big inspiration for the creation of Stones Throw. Heart-warming videos featuring PBW and Charizma har
ken back to a simpler time for both PBW and Hip Hop and seeing the obvious chemistry between the two begun to explain a lot about the quirks of PBW’s personality as well as what Stones Throw has become.
The film is split into chapters, each one exploring well… a different chapter of Stones Throw’s existence. Three chapters are dedicated to J Dilla and Madlib, the two legendary producers who became as important to Stones Throw as Stones Throw was to them, although for the hardcore fan there’s little new information on the pair but it’s presented in a single compact package in this documentary complete with new interviews and live performances.
The list of interviewee’s is impressive, varying from the aforementioned childhood friends of PBW through to the magnificent splendour of Kanye West, whose interviews were decidedly verbose, although occasionally displaying a more poetic side, equating Dilla’s legacy to a rose growing from the tough concrete of Detroit.
The film goes on to explore the current crop of Stones Throw talent, including Dam-Funk, Royal Kush and JonWayne, sharing the stories of how they got involved with the label and what it means to them. These short profiles are one of the more interesting parts of the film and left me feeling that there was a lot of possible stories that went untold in the documentary, I hope an extended edition is in the works.
The warmth, humanity and creativity that makes the music of Stones Throw so celebrated is infused in this film, from each individual interview to the old, nostalgia-dipped clips of PBW and label mates in years gone by. The film is perfect for any fan of Stones Throw or Independent music, at times it felt less like a documentary and more like a celebration, and lets hope theres many more to come.