Peanut Butter Wolf - It's Hip Hop Time, Mr Wolf
Author: Jane Stabler
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Hip hop artists love their unusual names, and it’s almost like it’s a bad thing to use your own name when it comes to the rap game. Peanut Butter Wolf is clearly no exception, but what is exceptional is his take on the genre. The Wolf’s alternative approach to hip hop and his mix of DJing and rhyming isn’t really what a lot of listeners expect when they hear the words ‘hip hop’. PBW says that if people haven’t been exposed to his sound before, they may be a little surprised.
“As far as a DJ, I play all over the place, but that's what hip hop was when it started. No rules. No boundaries,” he explains. “I don't consider myself a hip hop guy, but everyone else considers me one and expects me to play only a certain type of hip hop. Stones Throw is the same. People only expect one thing from Stones Throw, even though we've been releasing different stuff for over eight years now.”
Having been in the game for a while, PBW devised his own sound very early on, knowing this business was the one he was destined to be in. Also happening early on was the establishment of his hip hop persona as PBW – a name he chose back in the ‘80s upon realizing there was a peanut butter wolf monster that was feared by some – namely the little brother of his then girlfriend. Now almost 20 years later, it’s clear that the Peanut Butter name has stuck, something that the Wolf himself has mixed feelings about.
“I go through fazes,” he reveals of his feelings towards his chosen hip hop persona. “It wasn't anything I thought long and hard about. I just did it and never looked back [but] I'm glad I chose a weird name because it describes my personality – to the left.”
Even with such a crazy name, and an evident early love of the genre he has since made a career, it wasn’t an easy ride for the Wolf, and living in the Silicon Valley meant that not everyone was supportive of his quickly realised musical vision.
“Music was always my dream,” he recalls. “My ‘career of choice’ when I was young wasn't so much chosen by myself. Those around me discouraged me from going into music, so I considered things like a computer job since I grew up in Silicon Valley where all the jobs were. My classmate later founded Yahoo and became a multi-millionaire, so that was mentality where I was from. But I always wanted to do music, and eventually I went against everyone's advice and just went for it. The sound that is ‘mine’ started when I was a five year-old kid, holding hands with my mom in the grocery store and discovered I liked what I was hearing. From there, I sought out even more stuff and just kept absorbing. Good songwriting is good songwriting.”
Even if he did experience a not-so-supportive start to his career, PBW’s success in the industry can’t be disputed. After starting out recording and releasing hip hop tracks whilst still in his teens, the Wolf later found himself in demand as a producer as well, and eventually founded Stones Throw Records, a venture which now takes up the majority of his time. Producing has pretty much taken a backseat as PBW focuses on DJing and running the label, but it’s something he isn’t that worried about. Or possibly more to the point, he no longer has time to worry about. His DJing is what is taking him around the world, and in the very near future will bring the man to our own shores. “I'll be excited once I get off the plane,” he laughs of his trip down under.
DJing is definitely where the Wolf’s focus lies, and although he still puts on his production hat now and again, and at the request of people he is keen to work with, for the most part it’s not something that is regularly included in his work mix.
“I haven't really tried making music in a minute,” he says of his hectic work schedule and work preferences. “I do remixes here and there - James Pants, Azymuth, Baron Zen, Free Design, etc - but for the most part, my life is DJing and Stones Throw.”
His broad ranging skills and the length of time he has spent in the industry in order to refine them has also meant he’s witnessed a lot of other hip hoppers come and go. With the popularity of the genre ever increasing and spreading to a point that even the white folk are accepted, a lot of artists have tried their hand at hip hop only to not quite make the grade. Peanut Butter Wolf says he likes to go back to the roots of the scene as a result.
“Definitely a lot [of artists] have come and gone,” he agrees. “I really like exposing older artists to the younger generation. That's a lot of fun. When I was a young kid in the mid ‘80's, I discovered older music through sampling and was really interested in going back to a time period before I was born and listening to that music, so when I see the kids now going back to the ‘80's ‘90's and discovering stuff and liking it as much as, if not more than they like new music, it makes me happy.”
WHO: Peanut Butter Wolf
WHAT: Playing Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Thursday 5 June