If you had any doubt about the wide-ranging impact of cult LA label Stones Throw, you should check out the list of contributors to Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton, the feature-length documentary about the label’s history.
Amongst many others, you’ll see Mike D, Kanye West (in a rare display of humility and intelligence on camera), Questlove, Snoop Dogg, and Tyler the Creator, and that’s before you even get to the label itself, home to some of the most forward-thinking artists of the last couple of decades, several stone-cold classic albums, and a couple of recently converted major label stars that got their start at Stones Throw.
The LA premiere of Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton took place two weeks ago at the iconic Arclight Dome on Sunset Boulevard, and there wasn’t a seat to be spared. The film is a perfect representation of its subject: left-field, a little rough around the edges, but filled with the joy and excitement of watching a much-loved label on what has been a remarkable journey for the last couple of decades.
Founder Peanut Butter Wolf, with his unassuming style and fascinating personal history, would probably have generated enough material alone for the documentary, but instead we are presented with a series of chapters that give the film its sense of weight (if you’ll pardon the pun).
For a fan, it is a thrill to go behind the scenes to see photos and footage that wasn’t previously available. Watching a young Peanut Butter Wolf goofing around and rapping with childhood friend and fellow musician Charizma (who was tragically killed at the age of 20) gives the viewer an insight into a world that we have only previously been able to access via the music and the club nights.
A whole chapter of the film is dedicated to one of Stones Throw’s key players, the gifted Detroit producer J Dilla, whose classic Donuts album was released just days after his death from a lupus-related illness. If the obvious reverence from peers such as Kanye and Questlove doesn’t move you, then handheld footage of an appearance of a wheelchair-bound Dilla on stage not long before his death most likely will. It is a reminder of just how big a loss to the label he was, and in truth, it took a few years for everybody associated with Stones Throw to recover.
But the label did recover. We are now in the second life of Stones Throw, and Mayer Hawthorne and Aloe Blacc have gone on to bigger things already. Madlib remains and is still going strong (his recent collaboration with Freddie Gibbs is available now), and the label has survived the alleged death of the record industry to remain a key player in the independent scene.
This documentary is a fine tribute, filled with anecdotal details and (obviously) amazing music. If you care at all about people who make music for the passion and love of it, as opposed to raw profit (and if you read this blog, you are undoubtedly a member of the former group), then Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton is essential viewing.
For more info on screenings and the home video release: