If you didn’t get the message from my glowing review of the movie, I am psyched that Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, the new documentary about the history of West Coast label Stones Throw Records, is playing at The Belcourt. You've still got two last chances to see it at 6:30 and 9:40 tonight.
The movie’s release has got me in a list-making mood. So, for those novices who want to know what the label’s best records are — but are too scared to ask music snobs for fear they’ll get punked out (I’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN!) — I give to you 10 of my favorite (and, in my opinion, quite essential) Stones Throw releases.
J Dilla, Donuts (2006)
The Detroit producer’s dense, multi-layered beat tape (released on his 32nd birthday, three days before his death) was as much a parting gift to the world and his fans as it was a sample of where he was going creatively if he'd lived. Play this for hip-hop heads and see if they don’t get choked up.
Madvillain, Madvillainy (2004)
This is pretty much the album that put Stones Throw on the mainstream radar, as elusive, enigmatic MC MF Doom joined forces with even-more-elusive and enigmatic producer Madlib and made an acclaimed album that could only be described as a match made in WTF-land.
Jaylib, Champion Sound (2003)
As far as Stones Throw collabs go, I’ve always preferred this team-up between Madlib and Dilla. The duo literally brought out the hardest in each other, as they respectively took turns rhyming over each other’s beats. It’s probably the most ghetto-friendly release both artists have ever done.
Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf, Big Shots (2003)
Ten years after the shooting death of his partner-in-rhyme, Peanut Butter Wolf finally unearthed the tracks he did with Charizma back in the day (when they were briefly signed to a Disney label). The result is a collection that’s as nostalgic and vibrant as it is touching and poignant.
Kashmere Stage Band, Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974 (2006)
When it was working with Stones Throw, the reissue imprint Now-Again (founded by former label manager and 91 Rock DJ Eothen “Egon” Alapatt) dropped plenty of rare gems. This collection of long-lost tunes from the Houston high-school band was such a find, it inspired another documentary, called Thunder Soul.
Aloe Blacc, Shine Through (2006)
While his 2010 sophomore album Good Things made people take notice of him, the “I Need a Dollar” guy (and former Stones Throw alumni) really showed his range on his debut, which had him singing, rapping and even doing a Spanish version of John Legend’s “Ordinary People.”
Mayer Hawthorne, A Strange Arrangement (2009)
Hawthorne is another on-the-rise soulster who got his start hanging with the Stones Throw crew. His debut album, his only one for the label, has the hip-hop DJ trying his hand at blue-eyed soul — and turning out to be quite the falsetto-cooing white boy.
Quasimoto, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas (2005)
After listening to one or any of the albums Madlib did as his sped-up, rapping alter ego Quasimoto (Further was his second Quasimoto album), you’ll definitely realize which music the guy came up with when he says in the doc that he has taken mushrooms in the past while coming up with music.
Yesterdays New Quintet, Stevie (2004)
Even a hip-hop workaholic like Madlib can get tired with beats and rhymes. So he came up with a jazz-band side project (which is really just him assuming the role of all five cats and playing the instruments). Anyway, my favorite release from “them” is this rather intriguing collection of Stevie Wonder covers.
Various Artists, Chrome Children (2006)
If you prefer to get an album with just a bunch of Stones Throw artists, there’s this compilation (a co-production between the label and alt-cartoon network Adult Swim), which includes tunes from Dilla Madlib as well as past and present labelmates as Oh No, Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow.