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Inside the Los Angeles Hip-Hop Undergound
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Inside the Los Angeles Hip-Hop Undergound
Inside the Los Angeles Hip-Hop Undergound
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TONY COX, host:

And now from entertainment superstars to the Los Angeles hip-hop underground. For more than a decade, the L.A. label Stones Throw Records has worked with some of the biggest indie-rap acts in the business including MF Doom, Madlib and the late, J Dilla.

Producer Chris Manak, alias Peanut Butter Wolf, started Stones Throw in San Jose before moving the company down to L.A. There he teamed up with a couple of friends who have helped him turn Stones Throw into one of the most important independent labels in the U.S. Wolf says he started the label because of his love for music. He grew up as a white kid in California, listening to '70s soul but he wants - but once he got a taste of early hip-hop he was hooked.

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF (Producer, Stones Throw Records): Right away, it was just such a different thing to me from everything else that I was listening to. And when they started having the movies of "Breakin'" and "Beat Street" and stuff then it really - it started making more sense to me. You know, it was - I understood it more than just the music to actually be a full movement, you know.

(Soundbite of music)

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF: I guess through hip-hop I was starting to learn about a lot of other music. I was learning about, like, '60s psychedelic rock music and jazz music and reggae and so on and so forth, you know. So hip-hop, it is kind of all encompassing, all embodying, and that's kind of where I see Stones Throw Records. When I started it, it was more or less just the straightforward hip-hop. But as time went on I - I don't know, I just - I was like trying and doing different things and stuff.

(Soundbite of music)

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF: You know, even Madlib who is a huge part of Stones Throw, you know. He's got so many different personalities in his songs so he's - does the YNQ, Yesterdays New Quintet, which is more jazz oriented.

And then you'll hear them on the mic, you know, with J Dilla or with Doom or on his own, Quasimoto.

(Soundbite of song "Good Morning Sunshine")

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF: You know, just him and himself is like, probably like 10 different styles of music for Stones Throw.

(Soundbite of music)

EGON (General Manager, Stones Throw Records): I'm name is Eothen Alapatt - I go by Egon. I am general manager here at Stones Throw Records in Los Angeles, California.

When Wolf moved the company down to Los Angeles, he said I want you to move out and, you know, figure this out with me and didn't really say much more than that. And we all got together and took a look at all of Wolf's files, and said to ourselves, we've really got to figure out how to make the music that we want to make and sustain ourselves while doing it because at that point, we'd hadn't gotten any money from any distributors to start the company again. Wolf had borrowed some money from his mother.

(Soundbite of music)

EGON: We would all go out there and do DJ gigs and writing gigs to pay the bills to keep the lights on so that we could put out what we thought was going to be the next moneymaker, which would be a hip-hop record.

(Soundbite of music)

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF: My label Stones Throw, it's independently owned - basically owned by myself. I don't really have to answer to people in terms of how much money I want to spend on something. That's really what being independent is. To me, it's being able to put out whatever I want, you know. So as far as what's hard, I don't know. I'm still enjoying it.

(Soundbite of music)

PEANUT BUTTER WOLF: When I hear about people questioning white people putting out black music, I think it doesn't matter what color our skin is. I can't think of anybody on Stones Throw that I've ever really had a conversation with about that seeming record exec paradigm. You know, the white guy out there taking advantage of a black man or woman's creativity, because to all of us, it's a much more humanistic approach.

(Soundbite of music)

EGON: I stay with Stones Throw because I think that Peanut Butter Wolf, Chris, had a very pure vision and dream when he founded this company. And he said I want to put out good music, period. And I don't want to compromise to put that music out. And 10 years later, I feel like we're still pursuing that dream but every time there's a setback I feel like creatively we move ahead of it.

So it stresses me out to no end knowing that if we have a bad three or four months, you know, this company could shut its doors. We've got to get this music out now. We've got to get this music out now because there's so much bad music out now and we're a team that all believe in that ultimate goal. And we might fight internally about what record to put out, but we never fight on why we're doing it. We're doing it because no one else is.

(Soundbite of music)

COX: That was Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf of Stones Throw Records in Los Angeles. You can sample some of Stones Throw music at our Web site, npr.org/newsandnotes.

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