×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records’

Full of inspired detours and colorful non sequiturs, Jeff Broadway's music documentary will be greeted as a godsend by hardcore hip-hop fans.

With:
Peanut Butter Wolf, Charizma, Madlib, J Dilla, MF Doom, Dam-Funk, J Rocc, Jeff Jank, Aloe Blacc, Common, Kanye West, Questlove, Talib Kweli, A-Trak, Geoff Barrow, Tyler, the Creator, Mike D, Mayer Hawthorne, Mike Caren, Gaslamp Killer, Guilty Simpson, Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus.

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records” is a film that’s full of inspired detours, colorful non sequiturs, inside jokes and unexplained phenomena that will likely give hip-hop fans paroxysms of pleasure while leaving the uninitiated alternately amused and confused. In other words, it’s a perfect cinematic distillation of the storied underground record label’s ethos. The esoteric nature of the subject will limit its potential audience, but for anyone who’s spent hours in a dorm room puzzling over “Madvillainy,” Jeff Broadway’s music documentary will be greeted as a godsend.

Despite the gleeful absurdity that characterizes so much of the music released through Stones Throw, the label had its roots in tragedy. Founder Chris Manak (aka Peanut Butter Wolf) grew up an omnivorous music fan and DJ in San Jose, Calif., making playful hip-hop with his childhood friend, the rapper Charizma. Shortly after signing a record deal, the 20-year-old Charizma was murdered by a carjacker in 1993, and Manak started Stones Throw three years later as a way to finally release their old music, setting up shop in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

By the mid-2000s, Stones Throw had began to develop a reputation as a sort of Motown for misfit MCs. It found its Smokey Robinson equivalent in Madlib (a prolific, prodigiously talented beatmaker and rapper who became a sort of producer-in-residence), its Rick James in masked eccentric MF Doom, and its tragic Marvin Gaye figure in J Dilla, whose untouchable instrumental masterpiece, “Donuts,” was released on the label three days before he died of a rare blood disease. (Stones Throw never did find its Diana Ross, however, and the lack of prominent female acts is the only strike against a label roster that otherwise cuts across boundaries of race, age and genre with impunity.)

After Dilla’s death, Manak truly began to implement his stated policy of simply releasing whatever he personally liked, signing a slew of uncategorizable experimental acts that he must have been aware stood little chance of finding an audience. Yet more recent years have seen the label score two of its biggest crossover successes with the neo-soul of Mayer Hawthorne and Aloe Blacc, as well as the emergence of a new label ambassador in keytar-wielding Pasadena troubadour Dam-Funk.

Stones Throw has never notched a Billboard hit, but its influence is underlined by the number of major label figures who show up in the film to sing the indie’s praises. Beastie Boy Mike D, Tyler, the Creator, Common, Questlove and Warner Music Group A&R prexy Mike Caren all make appearances, as does Kanye West, who spends a good minute and a half trying and failing to describe J Dilla’s genius in purely musical terms, before finally settling on a left-field metaphor that’s startling, obscene and completely accurate.

While it has style to spare, the film does display a deficit of discipline. A few scenes here will be puzzling to those not fully versed in label lore, and early on it departs from an otherwise chronological structure to recap some of Stones Throw’s more outre recent signings before properly explaining its overall importance. It would also have been nice to have gotten a peak behind the curtain at how such a defiantly anti-commercial label manages to stay solvent at a time when so many mainstream-targeting operations have closed their doors. No doubt a more formulaic account of the label’s history would have been at odds with the spirit of the subject, but the film could have made better efforts to preach beyond the choir.

The footage on display here is voluminous and intimate, briskly edited together in a sort of studiously haphazard way that syncs up perfectly with Madlib’s far-reaching soundtrack mix.

Film Review: 'Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records'

Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (Summer Showcase), June 21, 2013. Running time: 92 MIN.

Production: A Gatling Pictures and Media TV Presse presentation. Produced by Jeff Broadway. Co-producers, Sebastien Bauer, Lucas Blaya, Rob Bralver. Executive producer, Jason McGuire.

Crew: Directed by Jeff Broadway. Screenplay, Broadway, Rob Bralver. Camera (color), Jordan Haro, Isaac Sterling, Sebastien Bauer; editor, Robert Bralver; music, Madlib; sound, Ken Cain; re-recording mixer, Brett Bach; animators, Rory Gamble, Kay Reghabi.

With: Peanut Butter Wolf, Charizma, Madlib, J Dilla, MF Doom, Dam-Funk, J Rocc, Jeff Jank, Aloe Blacc, Common, Kanye West, Questlove, Talib Kweli, A-Trak, Geoff Barrow, Tyler, the Creator, Mike D, Mayer Hawthorne, Mike Caren, Gaslamp Killer, Guilty Simpson, Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus.

More Film

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, president of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild leaders [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. More Reviews Album Review: Gary Clark Jr.'s 'This Land' Album Review: Lil Pump's 'Harverd Dropout' The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content