This year marks the 20th Anniversary of one of the most influential record labels of our time,Stones Throw.The ideology behind this label is quite simple and it lies as one of the keys to its success. Founder Peanutbutter Wolf says simply on the Stones Throw website that,”Stones Throw Records is a very personal label for me. I put out what I personally like and save the rest for the other labels out there. As executive producer, I don’t put out what I think the people will like, I put out what I like. This has worked for me so far, and if it stops working for me, it will be the end of Stones Throw as a label. I’ve passed on some artists that I knew would sell a lot of units because I didn’t like the songs. That sounds like a bad business move and from a purely financial standpoint it is one, but profit isn’t the only thing that drives my label. If money were my sole motivation, I’d be rich by now because so far I’ve attained everything I’ve put my mind to. I may be wealthy someday, but only as an indirect consequence of putting out what I believe to be good music.”In celebration, the L.A. based record label has been throwing events all over the world leading up to their monstrous “Super Fest” which took place yesterday November 5th back home where it all started.
I was lucky enough to get to know a person through our love of music and sought after Stones Throw collectibles by the name of Tom Bacon. Even though he didn’t work at the label, he was looked at as family by those who worked there as well as the artist. Earlier this week, I reached out to Tom and told him that this weekend was the label’s 20th Anniversary and how cool I thought it would be if he could share with me his time and different memories he had of the label. Without hesitation, Tom sent this to me…. “I owned an ad agency in town from 1990-2000.In late ’99 or early 2000 I was at the ASR ( action sports retailer ) show in Long Beach working with DC shoes. One night they held a big party at a club called Cohiba and as usual it was off the hook. DJ Greyboy ( DC posterchld ) , The Beatnuts and the Alkaholiks played – epic evening.
Fast forward 2 weeks and I’m in Portland buying music and looking for the Alkaholiks as well as,hell, I couldn’t remember their name completely ( was a big party as I said ) and it was close but ended up buying the Beat Junkies Vol. 3 by accident. “Microphone Mathematics” was track #3 or 4 and “Whenimondamic” was further down the track list. After that I was hooked, and did what I could to find out more about Quasimoto, Madlib, Wildchild….all the way down the line.
Later that year I copped” The Unseen” when it came out and couldn’t stop listening. That and Dj Shadow’s “Endtroducing” were very important to me. (I have the cover shot of “Endtro”hanging on my wall at home, B+ shot it ).
So digging, learning, finding etc…down this path I could not have predicted. About 2002 I was getting ready to go to a trade show in San Francisco and sent Peanutbutter Wolf an email through Stonesthrow.com, what little site they started with. Never expecting to hear back, about 20 minutes later I got an email and he was super cool. They were just moving Stones Throw to LA and his guys didn’t have any gigs in town but we connected and stayed in touch.
In 2003 I moved to the company VTech and in early 2004 reached out to Wolf and told him there wasn’t a lot I could do for them but wanted to repay the favor for their music getting me through some tough times. He said they just moved into their offices in Highland Park and needed business phones. I hooked him up, got the office set up and that started us down a path.
Later in 2004 I made my way to LA ( ended up there every other week for 8 years – music, tv, film etc…for VTech ) and asked if I could come by and meet them. They said sure and after showing up at the address for the PO Box, I got instructions on how to get to their office in Highland Park and met the crew. Wolf, Egon, Havana Joe, Jank etc…From there Egon and I became close and Havana and I became inseparable. We began to talk co-marketing,branding etc.. and started getting ideas rolling.
In early 2005 I pitched an idea to Giant mag ( Jamie Hooper ) about doing 4 page advertorial on Stones Throw sponsored by VTech and they loved it. We set a date and in early May I flew into town to what is still probably the best day of my professional career: the day I met Dilla, Ma Dukes, and Madlib.
So the shoot we did at Madlib’s old house in Echo Park was the 1st day I met Dilla and Ma Dukes (Dilla’s mother,Maureen Yancey). He was pretty fragile then but stayed with us all day ( it was HOT ) and we all had dinner that night.The pic you see all over of him sitting at a drum set was taken that day. It took about a week to clean up Otis’s (Madlib) garage/studio enough to have the shoot. MED, Wolf, Egon, Madlib, Dilla, Oh No came through – the whole crew. It was all surreal and from that day forward as Madlib, Dilla, and I all became friends. To this day I still think of Maureen as a 2nd Mom.I supported them all the way. Sponsoring events, tours, shows and special events. We did the Chrome Children at SXSW in ’05/maybe ’06. That’s when I met Guilty Simpson, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Dudley Perkins, Roc C etc..and the family grew wider.We all were very close in the early days. Whenever I flew into Burbank for work I’d go directly to Madlib’s house and hang if he was there, and usually last thing i did before I left town.It was strange that this larger than life character had become a dear friend and always looked forward to the time we’d hang. Made no sense, and I think it actually irritated some folks but it didn’t matter.The early days were the best. Getting to know Stephen when he was sort of interning ( FlyLo ), J Rocc, the rest of the Beat Junkies, even Karriem Riggins and I became, and still are, good friends. My brother for life is Havana Joe, he was a big part of Stones Throw although he never gets the credit he deserves.One of the most surreal moments was being at Wolf’s wedding ( Pepperdine Chapel ) and sitting with Ma Dukes, Madilb, & J Rocc.The 3 of us were a little baked and cracking up – Ma Dukes was getting mad and telling us to pipe down. Otis had a new suit on, still had the tags on the sleeves. I explained that they are supposed to be pulled off. Love that dude.As we grew, I gained more of a larger following and spread the love to other artists, labels (Duck Down, Decon – Bittenbender called me the Robin Hood of HipHop) and our relationship strained a bit as the label changed, egos got involved etc… I focused my efforts on building platforms like music.vtechphones.com where i curated tons of content and out for free ( January ’09 launch ) and helping the cats that Stones Throw let stray: Oh No, Roc C, FlyLo, MED, DOOM,WildChild, PerceeP etc..in ’09 we created the Timeless series in LA which included “A Suite for Ma Dukes.” This was our idea: B+, Coleman, Andrew Lojero, and I put up the funds through VTech. It was an epic journey and also one of the best things we created. It was great for 5 years, last 2 were strained as the label had issues as I mentioned. They were the best of times…. I got to become friends and family with a group of cats I never thought I would meet. They welcomed me in, taught me a lot and was proud to carry their weight when needed. Our tales are legendary but in the past. Best run of my life.”