Stone's Throw Records, the California based forward-thinking hip-hop label, has been doing its thing for ten years now. It's been releasing compilations of instrumentals, 7-inches, and long-playing gems such as Lootpack, Madvillain, Quasimoto, and Jaylib for a decade. Stone's Throw's newest, Chrome Children, is a compilation of its current roster, and it, along with the label's anniversary, prompted a major U.S. tour which found its way to the Paradise on Wednesday night.
It was clear from the outset that what was supposed to be a celebration of the rare longevity of and independent record label was equally a celebration of the life and work of J Dilla. J Dilla, or Jay-Dee as some knew him, a somewhat recent addition to the Stone's Throw roster, died last February due to heart failure, only three days after his stellar all-beats album Donuts hit record stores. All performers who took to the stage last night either played a J Dilla beat, an unreleased track, or dedicated one of their songs to him.
But much of the hype swirling around the show was that Peanut Butter Wolf, the label's founder and accomplished dj/producer in his own right, was going to "scratch" DVDs, thereby inventing a whole new style of performance. (Careful folks, the term "DVDj" might be entering our lexicon before we can type "w-i-k-i-p-e-d-i-a" into our browsers.) PBW did not disappoint, as about two thirds of the way through the night -- which featured performances by a bulk of Stone's Throw roster, including recent signees Aloe Blacc, Percee P, and Guilty Simpson -- he took to the stage to offer up his new craft.
It was difficult to decipher exactly what he was working with. It looked like some sort of dual-deck Pioneer CDJ1000 that had both video and audio outs. Each deck was then wired into a mixer so Peanut Butter Wolf was able to manipulate the sights and sounds of the DVDs or VCDs (video CDs) that were playing in his Pioneers. The mix was then projected onto a big screen behind the DJ tables.
He played various hip-hop videos from the early days of Yo! MTV Raps likely dubbed from a VCR then loaded digitally onto CD. As he worked in hits like Pharcyde's, "She Keeps on Passing Me By", the crowd in front of the stage belted out the chorus with vigor. "This is like church", Peanut Butter Wolf noted. Indeed, the Wolfman was the pastor and eager fans were his congregation. Upon the pulpit he not only sang the psalms but showed their Hype Williams-directed videos. As classics like A Tribe Called Quest's "Award Tour", Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man," and Das Efx's "They Want Efx," dashed before our eyes, it was clear that this was a much better way of reliving our youth, compared with squinting at a low-bitted YouTube rendering.
"This is so mathematical. I'm still getting the hang of it, but glad you guys enjoyed it," Wolf sheepishly admitted at the end of his set, half-apologizing for his several non-surgical flub-ups (once the screen on stage went blank except for a big "Pioneer" logo in the middle of it). It certainly was fun for what it was, but definitely not up to his standard wizard-like mixing skills which fans of his regular DJ work are accustomed to. But still, impressive, and way beyond what any Joe "What's Vinyl?" DJ could ever dream of accomplishing.