Peanut Butter Wolf Speaks In-Depth About Madlib’s Unique Genius

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Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf is the latest guest on Pandora’s Questlove Supreme. Taped in Los Angeles, California, the episode finds Questlove, Phonte, Boss Bill, Laiya, Suga Steve asking the San Jose native Chris Manak about his label and its incredible catalog. Highlights include specific discussion on Lootpack’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote, Madvillain’s Madvillainy, Quasimoto’s The Unseen, and JayLib’s Champion Sound.

At the 37:00 mark, Questlove brings up Lootpack, the Oxnard, California collective of Madlib, Wildchild, and DJ Romes. The trio that first appeared on Tha Alkaholiks’ 21 & Over went on to release a full-length on Stones Throw in 1998. That collection, Soundpieces: Da Antidote, prompted J Dilla to call Soulquarians collaborator Questlove late one night shortly after its release. “I met my match, man,” Dilla reportedly told The Roots’ band-leader. At the time, Quest’ recalls purchasing four copies at Downtown Manhattan’s Fat Beats store, and listening to the album alongside D’Angelo, presumably at the Electric Lady Studios where they were recording Voodoo. Five years later, Madlib and Dilla would form JayLib together.

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Wolf explains, “I was going through the demos recently; the demo versions were all just recorded the way Madlib wanted it. Then we went to like a bigger studio and they multi-tracked it, and mixed everything [differently]. Madlib is like the nicest guy—like he won’t always speak up for what he wants sometimes, so you won’t always know what he really he wants—at least he was back then. So the engineer that did Lootpack, he mixed it a lot differently than the way Madlib’s demo sounded. Madlib cannot listen to [Soundpieces: Da Antidote]; he hates it because of the [mix]. Everything is too perfect and clean for him—clean for the [Emu Systems SP] 1200 anyway.”

Wolf, who is an accomplished artist, DJ, and producer says that Madlib’s subsequent control of the mix grew challenging as Stones Throw tried to shop him to artists. “After that, he would never give [engineers or artists] multi-tracks. I was trying to get Madlib beats to Nas and Q-Tip and people at the time, and it couldn’t happen ’cause he wouldn’t multi-track it.” One placement was in 2004, on De La Soul’s The Grind Date. “I remember with De La [Soul], when they did the ‘Shopping Bags’ [single], they wrote to it after I gave them just the two-track of it. They’re like, ‘Alright, we [are ready] for the multi’s.’ There are no multi’s. They were upset with me; I was kind of caught in the middle ’cause it was miscommunication where they assumed I was gonna give them multi’s on it.” Phonte says that in his experience with Madlib, he has witnessed this to be true. He says that as a longtime fan, he appreciates the aesthetic.

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“That’s how Madvillain was created. That’s how JayLib, all the Quasimoto [albums too],” continues Peanut Butter Wolf. “When Madlib told me he wanted to work with DOOM and Dilla, that was our job to find those two guys and make it happen.”

As the discussion progresses into 2004’s Madvillainy, Wolf brings up what is known as “The Retarded Hard Copy” version of the collaborative project between MF DOOM and Madlib. “There’s a whole other version of [Madvillainy]; I don’t know if you ever heard it. But originally, DOOM rapped the whole album in like a hype tone. That version leaked. And I don’t know if DOOM felt like since it leaked he was gonna re-do the whole album or—I don’t know. But for whatever reason, he went back and did the whole album in a laid back way.”

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Despite the released version’s accolades, some who have heard both were reportedly hesitant. “The initial response was, ‘I liked him better hype. Why’d he do that? He ruined it.’ But for the people who never heard the hype version, they really responded to it.”

Wolf continues, “That album, JayLib, Quas’, and several other albums were all done at the same time using 150 beats that Madlib had put on three CDs. It was like 50 beats per CD. And it was all like 30-second snippets and stuff.” The guest then explains how and why the onetime flagship artist of Stones Throw stays so prolific. “They’re all done so quickly. He used to live with another producer. That other producer would spend so much time on a track, and Madlib would hear, through the walls, the same song over and over again. He would get so frustrated and sick of hearing the same song. So Madlib’s [approach is] everything is just 10, 20 minutes, and then on to the next track, on to the next track.”

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The discussion also reveals that 2000’s Unseen became a breakthrough project by accident. “Quasimoto, that was like on the back. Wildchild gave me a Lootpack tape; Quasimoto happened to be on the back. Then I asked Madlib about Quasimoto. He’s like, ‘Oh, you weren’t supposed to hear that,’ like he was embarrassed. I was like, ‘Nah, I want to do that; yo, I love that.'” Peanut Butter Wolf continues, “[The Unseen was recorded] to cassette. The engineer didn’t want to mix it because—he didn’t want his name on it. ‘I’ll lose business if I put my name on this as the engineer.’ There’s all that hiss and everything.”

Back in the mid-1990s, when Wolf was working at a distributor in addition to releasing beat records for DJs. House Shoes, another artist, DJ, and producer, called him on behalf of a Detroit, Michigan producer, Jay Dee. “Shoes was like ‘I’m sitting on all these unreleased Jay Dee remixes. Because the major labels ask him to do remixes and then they never accept them.’ So Q-Tip was [J Dilla’s] manager, hookin’ him up with a lot of stuff. So [House Shoes] was like, ‘Me and Jay Dee want to a vinyl [release] of this, and we just want to do 1,000 copies.'” Released with a green label, the limited edition pressing contained a remix of D’Angelo’s “Me And Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine,” Das EFX, Masta Ace Incorporated, and others.  The relationship would build over the next decade-plus. Just days before his 2006 death, J Dilla released Instrumental Hip-Hop album Donuts on Stones Throw Records.

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At 1:32:00, Phonte asks Peanut Butter Wolf about parting ways with Madlib and Stones Throw’s former label manager, Eothen “Egon” Alapatt. Throughout his career, Madlib has done projects outside of Stones Throw, including Blue Note and BBE. However, in the early 2010s, he began to release much of his material outside the Los Angeles, California-based label. “It’s kind of a long story,” begins Wolf. “With Madlib and Egon, who used to run [Stones Throw Records], things weren’t creatively working out between Egon and I, and I had to let Egon go. He basically took Madlib with him. He gave Madlib his own deal, his own label. Madlib’s stuff theoretically comes out on [Madlib Invasion]. He still does some stuff for us. He scored the movie [Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton] and did the soundtrack for that. It’s a loving relationship, but you know. Egon’s more involved in that.”

Stones Throw remains active. In 2018, they released Homeboy Sandman & Edan’s Humble Pi. Elsewhere in the interview, Peanut Butter Wolf reveals that Rawkus Records was pursuing acquiring Stones Throw in the 2000s. He says he flew to New York to meet with the label founders but was not interested. Wolf also describes his current roster. He also discusses plans to open a vinyl bar, featuring 7,000 of his personal records. Guest DJs will be required to use the music library during sets.

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Catch the full Questlove Supreme interview at Pandora.