×
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

  • shanghai skyline China Placeholder

    Shanghai: Tencent, Phoenix Win Rights to Taiwan Documentary 'Love Talk' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tencent has acquired the online video streaming rights and Phoenix Hong Kong the TV rights to Taiwanese documentary “Love Talk,” which takes a deep dive into the topic of marriage. The film is currently working towards a mainland theatrical release. Directed by Shen Ko-Shang (“A Rolling Stone”), it is produced by CNEX Studio and 7th [...]

  • Chris Hemsworth (H) with Em (Tessa

    China Box Office: ‘Men In Black’ Makes $26 Million Debut, ‘Phoenix’ Falls

    “Men In Black: International” made a lukewarm start in Chinese theaters. It scored $25.8 million over the weekend, according to data from Artisan Gateway, to claim top spot ahead of Chinese-made “My Best Summer.” The Chinese gross of the “Men in Black” spinoff was not that far short of the film’s North American debut, which [...]

  • Yao Chen

    Xiamen Woos Film Industry, Becomes New Home of Golden Rooster Festival

    China’s government-led Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival has found a permanent home in Fujian province’s coastal city of Xiamen, starting from this year, municipal representatives said Monday at a Shanghai Intl. Film Festival press conference. “Xiamen has the confidence and the perseverance to be up to the task,” said Dai Zhiwang, the assistant [...]

  • TheReturn press launch at Shanghai Film

    Qin Hailu's 'The Return' Makes Emotional Debut at Shanghai Festival

    “This is the final film that seals my acting career,” said 95-year-old Chinese actor Chang Feng, of “The Return,” which plays this week in competition at the Shanghai International Film Festival. “The director, the screenwriter, and the entire crew have put so much heart into this film, I hope it wins the award.” The film [...]

  • Dami Im and Bong Joon-Ho'Parasite' premiere,

    ‘Parasite’ Wins Sydney Film Festival

    “Parasite,” the South Korean black drama that previously won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was Sunday named as the winner of the Sydney Film Festival. After collecting a cash prize of A$60,000 ($41,200), at Sydney’s State Theatre, “Parasite” director said: “This Festival is really amazing, especially the audience…really special and extraordinary. This is the most [...]

  • China Film Group's Jiang Ping

    Shanghai: China Studio Chiefs Debate Winter Chills and U.S. Rivalry

    The Shanghai International Film Festival pulled off the impressive feat of assembling leading executives from seven of China’s top film studios. Their discussion focused on the problems that have recently beset the production sector and the industry’s relationship with Hollywood. “The film industry achieved great things in 2018, but it was also the year that [...]

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while

    Propaganda Films to Dominate Chinese Theaters in Anniversary Year

    A presentation at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday shed light on the welter of propaganda films that will compete with Hollywood blockbusters for the attention of Chinese cinema goers in the second half of this year. This year is laden with political significance for China’s ruling Communist Party. It is 100 years since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content