A wonderfully-made documentary on the way of the LA based label Stones Throw turns 10 this year. A love letter to hip hop, music and friendship tells a unique story starting from it's humble beginnings in 1996, to its' current day place in the music game.
Screening on the 8th of November at Melkweg, tickets available here.
As a devoted fan of hip hop, I remember how much of an impact this documentary made on me 10 years ago. At the time, being familiar with mostly the usual suspects the label released, such as Homeboy Sandman, Quasimoto, Madlib, MF DOOM & J Dilla, I felt curious to find out more about the full story of how the label came to existence, who was behind it, and everything there was to learn. Quite honestly, I remember feeling filled with hope after watching it for the first time. The pure knowledge of the existence of a label with a unique vision that doesn't follow the rules of the music industry, pushes boundaries, breaks norms and stubbornly follows the "gut feeling" of whatever feels right brought a lot of ease to my heart.
“We need more people to follow his example. Smaller movements make for a bigger and better quality.” - Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson
The film's director, Jeff Broadway, does a remarkable job in taking us behind the scenes of Stones Throw Records, the hub of creativity responsible for nurturing some of the most innovative and influential hip-hop artists of our time, blending the personal stories of Stones Throw artists with the labels journey throughout the years. The never-before-seen footage of iconic figures such as J Dilla, and DOOM (who sadly passed away since the release of this documentary), bring a bittersweet tone to the narrative just as much as the footage of the late Charizma, and Peanut Butter Wolf from their high school days.
Cementing the greatness of the organic hip-hop movement that Peanut Butter Wolf spawned, the docu is jam-packed with interviews and appearances of the Stones Throw family and hip-hop luminaries from Talib Kweli, Questlove, Flying Lotus, and Common, to Tyler the Creator, Madlib, Kanye West, and many more. And the soundtrack of the documentary by none-other-than Madlib is still my most listened to Madlib album to date.
“The only thing that keeps things alive is change, invention, reinvention” - Mike D, Beastie Boys
Honoring hip hop roots has played as much of a role in the story of the label as redefining the boundaries, and avoiding the "hip hop label" box. Boldly experimenting with new sounds and styles eclectically, amplifying and celebrating artistry, and freedom of expression in an industry thats often focused purely on commercial success. Testament to that are releases of artists such as Gary Wilson, Valerio, Jonti or Royal Kush, althouth the more they strayed away from hip hop the more they got criticized. “Some of my decisions have prevented me from being more successful, and I understand that. But I guess that’s my struggle, because there’s probably 2 or 3 handfuls of people who when I put out a record I want them to like it. Beyond that I don’t care. In 30 years I want to see Stones Throw records either in the 100 dollar bin or the 99cent bin. I don’t want it in the 5 dollar bin. I want people to either really hate it or really love it."
While I won't give away too much, I can promise you that 'Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records' is a rollercoaster of emotions, from the peaks of artistic success to the rock bottoms of personal tragedy. It paints a vivid picture of the struggles and triumphs faced by both the label and the artists they represent. For those who have been following Stones Throw Records over the years, this film offers an opportunity to revisit old memories and discover hidden gems. For those new to the label and hip-hop, it's an engaging introduction to the essence of the underground hip-hop scene, and so much more.
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