Monday night found the men behind Stones Throw Records in Philadelphia, supporting their documentary Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton. The evening kicked off with a screening at PhilaMOCA in Callowhill, followed by a question and answer time with label founder Peanut Butter Wolf, a complete transcript of which you can find here. The winners of our Music Without Labels ticket giveaway were there, as well as photographer Reji Berrouet and myself. By the time the Q&A was over, we had missed Knxwledge, the tour’s opening act, down at Boot & Saddle in South Philadelphia. We arrived during rapper/producer Jonwayne‘s set, making our way through the recently renovated country-western bar into the venue in the back. Seeing someone perform live right after watching a documentary partially about him was a bit surreal, but also added a great deal to the experience for those who hadn’t been fans already. He was holding court, spitting his rhymes with the same deadpan delivery he does on record, cueing up his own backing tracks and heckling the crowd for their lack of participation. “You’re the reason hip-hop is whack now!” he shouted, as he launched into “The Come Up” to close. As DJ J Rocc took the stage, Jonwayne shouldered his way through the crowd back out to the bar, where he would spend the rest of the evening discussing his views on the current state of music with the few loyal fans that had been head-nodding and yelling lyrics back at him up front.
J Rocc’s set was educational to say the least, playing with sample source material, chopping it up until it was recognizable and then either cutting into the hip-hop track it was sampled in or veering off in another direction. One particular tease that got the crowd riled up was when he used the intro drums and piano of Mobb Deep’s anthemic “Shook Ones” as a transition, never even getting into the lyrics. Frequent spoken interludes from comedy albums, movie dialogue, and interviews were sprinkled throughout, punctuated by animated pantomime behind the turntables. The middle of the set picked up the tempos drastically, jumping between Chicago juke and afrobeat seamlessly before plunging into a filter-heavy looping rendition of Damian Marley’s classic “Welcome to Jamrock”. Finally arriving at Boot & Saddle after signing autographs and chatting post-Q&A uptown, Peanut Butter Wolf snuck up behind J Rocc on stage, interrupting the enthusiastically bopping DJ to let him know they had to start transitioning between sets.
Wolf had decided to play an all-video set, mixing music videos and interview clips with Serato Video on the same turntable setup J Rocc had been using for audio. As they switched over which computer was plugged into the system, they played a 7″ single they had bought earlier that day at Val Shively‘s legendary record shop in West Philly, the sample source for one of J Dilla’s beats. Wolf jokingly referenced the fact that that was the only vinyl played all night on the Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton tour, launching briefly into his set before being interrupted by J Rocc accidentally unplugging the gear as he packed up his own. Everything was back online within 30 seconds, though, and Peanut Butter Wolf proceeded to give the people what they needed, though not necessarily what they wanted, through his extended video set. As with J Rocc, the primary focus seemed to be on sample source material, the disco, funk, and soul records that hip-hop has drawn from, something that occasionally seemed lost on the crowd brought in by the (primarily) indie rock promoters at R5 Productions. At the very least this wasn’t the music they’d dance to, if they did dance, and their insistence on remaining stationary proved Jonwayne’s frustration not entirely unjustified. With a few extremely drunken exceptions, and even fewer female ones, the only moment to see a significant amount of movement was when he dropped Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit”, sample source for Biggie Small’s “Juicy”. I noticed Matthew Law, also known as DJ PHSH, in the crowd, and found myself wishing R5 had brought in his party-rocking Illvibe crew to promote like Red Bull did for a Talib Kweli show at the Blockley (RIP) a while back. At the same time, it was a Monday night that started out with a documentary screening, so being impressed and educated at the same time was well worth the trip out.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC