Peanut Butter Wolf on '90s vs. 2010s Hip-Hop: "The Commercial Music's Worse Now"
Photo by Joel Frijhoff
Peanut Butter Wolf, founder of the legendary Stones Throw Records, has presided over some of the most important releases and moments in modern hip-hop history.
Recently, a Kickstarter-funded documentary, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, was released about his iconic mecca of underground hip-hop beats. It has received rave reviews.
PBW, an accomplished and very danceable DJ in his own right, will be bringing his eclectic brand of groovy, jazzy and funkadelic beats to The Stage this weekend as part of "Stones Throw Weekend." So we here at Crossfade had a chill phone chat with him about creating beats, recreational drug use, and losing friends.
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Crossfade: Why do you think that Madlib and J Dilla are such great producers?
Peanut Butter Wolf: I think they're both awesome. Part of what made them awesome is they were working together and challenging each other. It wasn't spoken, but you could just tell that they were listening to each other's music and inspiring each other to raise the bar. I mean, their styles are kind of different. And another thing is they both just kept making new beats every day. Now I can speak more because I've lived with them and they would make, like, twenty beats a day. You know? And a lot of producers take a week to do one track. Madlib would never want to hear the same song over and over again. I think that's what made him the way he was. I mean Madlib would just pick up the snare drum sometimes and go at it.
And Dilla has so many tracks too.
When Dilla died, his mom and I and J Rocc decided to play all his music. And it was at that point we realized that we had like ten hours of music.
Madlib's been able to make the transition to the mainstream music, and he's been involved with so many different genres now. Do you think Dilla's career would have gone in a similar direction if he had continued on?
I think Dilla's had a lot more commercial success than Madlib's had so far. I mean he got discovered by A Tribe Called Quest. And he was hooking up with everybody from the Roots to D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, Pharcyde, De La Soul. And now Drake's rapped over a Dilla beat on one of his mixtapes. And I mean Kanye's worked with Dilla and he hasn't worked with Madlib yet. So I feel like when Dilla co-signed on Madlib's stuff, it really helped Madlib's career and definitely Stones Throw as well. I mean Dilla was already pretty big and well known when he started working with us.
You once did shrooms with Madlib, and now you apparently never want to do shrooms again.
Yeah, that was a big mistake.
Why was it such a big mistake?
I just don't have the right mind for doing drugs. I mean, I barely even smoke weed. I don't like smoking weed. It makes me paranoid. I was never really a big smoker. But being around Madlib, he was always smoking and he'd pass it. So I'd take courtesy hits or whatever. Or when Dilla was in the studio for the first time, we were all smoking weed. So, of course, I'm not going to say no. But yeah, I've crossed [shrooms] off the list of things I want to do before I die. At the time we did it, we were in Vegas. I didn't know enough about the drug. And everyone I've talked to is like, 'Wow, that's the worst place to do mushrooms. Why would you do that?"
Yeah, I did mushrooms and walked through Time Square once. It was weird.
That sounds similar. My sister used to be really big on ecstasy and she used to always ask me to do ecstasy and go to raves. So I did that a few times and it was the same thing. I just instantly get paranoid, whatever drug it is. Except for alcohol.