Starting an indie record label is not an easy task, but it is really impressive to make the same label successful over two decades. Stone’s Throw Records Ringleader Chris Manak (better known as Peanut Butter Wolf) balances the stress of running a small but influential label with a healthy dose of enthusiasm: “When I sign new artists, I feel like I’m living through them,” he says. “When I see things that inspire you, that inspires me too!” From a record-collecting fifth grader to an internationally acclaimed DJ, Wolf has a deep love of music, which takes him through the valleys and peaks of life.
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Welcome to The administration, a podcast featuring candid conversations with professional musicians, bringing listeners the unvarnished truth of what it’s like to be an artist in the music business today. In tonight’s episode, host and LA-based DJ, producer and musician Dan Ubick (aka Constantine “Connie” Price) sits down with Peanut Butter Wolf to discuss the DJ’s struggles and achievements over the past 20 years at the helm of Stones Throw. Wolf shares his thoughts on creating mixtapes, finding positive mentors with eclectic musical tastes, and working with the biggest names in hip-hop, from Madlib and MF Doom to J Dilla and Anderson Paak. He also goes into the ins and outs of running Stones Throw, why streaming services could be good for indie record companies, and which records came first in his now massive (and famous) collection.
Wolf began collecting records in the late ’70s, just as hip-hop was emerging as an exciting new genre from the Bronx. A precocious high school student and “bedroom DJ,” Wolf saved his lunch money for the latest singles from indie labels like Sugarhill and Sunnyview. In 1990 he met 16-year-old Charles Hicks, who would become Charizma Wolf’s creative partner as an MC and rapper. Wolf discusses the origins of the duo, reflecting on their close friendship and creative endeavors over a three-year period in the early ’90s. He also addresses Charizma’s untimely death at age 20, the grief that followed that engulfed his creativity, and what finally brought him peace: “Making beats and tracks was what really pulled me out of the grief (to Charizma’s death),” says Wolf. “It was my therapy more than anything.”
If there’s one lesson listeners can learn from Wolf and his 20+ years in the music industry, it’s how to stay passionate about the arts against adversity. “I’m still very proud and grateful for all the great music I get to surround myself with,” he says. Tune in to this month’s episode The administration for a fascinating conversation about perseverance and passion with the legendary peanut butter grinder.