Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf in Vapors

  • Serv One
  • Vapors
  • February 01, 2004

Like too many other great MCs, Charizma's life was taken by mindless violence. Unlike many other great mc's, his legacy was shelved for ten years. A star that fell before it had a chance to shine, Charizma's legacy has only lived through memories and the will and passion of his friend and Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf. Wolf and Charizma met in 1990 in the San Jose area of Northern California and instantly clicked. They quickly established a tra- ditional mc/dj relationship that took the two on a path destined for major-label fame. In December of 1993, their destiny was interrupted when Charizma was tragically shot and killed. 3 years later, Peanut Butter Wolf began Stones Throw Records with the release of Charizma's instant classic, the "My World Premier" twelve inch. Now, 10 years after his passing, Wolf has un-shelved a full 15 track Charizma album and is reintroducing the world to his friend and spiritual label co-founder.

Vapors: How did you and Charizma meet? Can you explain your relationship?
PB Wolf: Well, at the time -this was around 1990- I was working with a lot of different MC's. I had just put out a local record called You Can't Swing This by Lyrical Prophecies. We did 500 copies and word was kinda getting around that I made beats and stuff. This guy that I went to high school with named Kermit, he was telling me about this kid Charizma; actually his name was Charlie C at the time. He was saying Yeah, you should check this guy out, he's got skills, he's dope.' He brought him over to my house once and I showed him some of my beats and we recorded some stuff. So, it kinda just started out as someone around the way, recording with me and stuff. We went to different high schools, but he literally lived like 2 miles away from me. At that time, I was working with a lot of different MC's and eventually, I just kinda dropped everybody else and worked with Charizma full time, 'cause we just clicked a lot better.

So it was a pretty traditional producer/mc relationship?
Definitely. A dj and an mc like Pete Rock and CL Smooth. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.

Eric B and Rakim.
Yeah, Scott LaRock and KRS One. Actually, I showed KRS the song My World Premier that I did with Charizma and he was really into, so that was really cool for me to get his approval. You know, he lost his friend under similar circumstances.

Why do you think that you guys worked so well together?
I think that we had a similar sense of humor. We would always mess around, talkin' shit and stuff, makin' fun of people. Just messin' around.

So once you started recording with him, that was pretty much it? It was Peanut Butter Wolf and Charizma from then on?
Yeah, at first I would make time for him and then I would make time for this group Nubians of Truth Unit and some other groups and he was kinda frustrated and he said You know I understand, but once you realize how dope I am, you're eventually gonna drop everybody else.' You know, he was kinda makin' a joke but it ended up being true.

If you don't mind, when did Charizma die and how?
He died in December [1993]. Basically, he was shot and killed. It was just a violent death. I personally don't know all of the details, but from what I understand, a guy basically approached him at a stoplight in East Palo Alto, which was a pretty rough neighborhood at the time. Yeah, from what I heard, he resisted and the guy shot him. Something that no one ever would have expected, obviously.

Aside from the obvious, how did that affect you? Especially as a musician?
Right after it happened, I completely turned my keyboard and my sampler off and I didn't work on music for several months. I didn't really do much of anything. But yeah, eventually it helped me to make music. When you make music, you're in your own world and you kinda turn everything else off, so essentially, that was my therapy.

There wasn't a Stones Throw at that time?
No.

Would you say that Charizma's passing was a contributing factor to you starting a label?
When he died, I had no interest in being in another group with somebody else. I just felt that would be too weird. I just didn't have any desire to do it, but I knew that my career would have to involve music still. So I started out doing a breakbeat album and doing EP's, working with different MCs. From those experiences, I just decided that I wanted to go all out and do my own label and promote my own music.

How do you think Stones Throw would be different if Charizma was still here?
Well, I don't know that there would be a Stones Throw if he was still here. I think that him and I might've chosen the path of just being artists only. At that time, everybody's goal was to get signed to a label. When I first got into hip hop, it was all inde- pendently run, but by the early nineties, it really shift- ed, you know? All of my favorite groups were on major labels like Brand Nubian and De La. They all had major backing behind them, major money and major distribution.

So things definitely would have been different, for better or for worse.
Yeah, I definitely think so.

Was the "My World Premier" twelve inch the first Stones Throw release?
Yeah, that was the first Stones Throw record. Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf. That came out three years after he passed away, but I didn't really tell anyone about him. If someone asked, I would tell them, but a lot of people thought that it was something that was recorded in 96. It didn't sound dated to them at all. Sometimes I would get calls from people wanting to book Charizma for shows and stuff. That was pretty strange.

Would you say that that was more flattering and attributing to his legacy or did it just feel kind of weird?
Of course it did. Like I was saying earlier, the KRS thing. We were at a video shoot for Step Into A World. I had just gotten the Charizma twelve inch and it was at a Gavin convention and I went up to Kenny Parker and I asked him to play it. He looked at me kinda like 'what is this corny white dude askin' me to play some shit for' and he was like 'is it good?' and I told him to play it in the headphones and if you like, then play it in the speakers. KRS immediately turned around and asked what it was. Charizma and I were always influenced by Bronx hip-hop, so that was kinda like validation for me.

Not to discredit "My World Premier" at all and this might just be my own opinion, but is "I Got Methods" (the B-side) a little bit more accepted and recognized? It seems like you still hear that song more than "My World Premier."
Well, "Methods" was recorded a lot later. "My World Premier" was like a year before and when we did "Methods," we were really into that song. But yeah, that's one of my favorites. That's a song that Egon and I argue about. He likes some of the other songs better.

Ok, so basically, you had an album completed in 93. After his passing, did it just get tucked away? Did you have plans to release it or did you just recently decide that it's been 10 years and its time for this to be heard?
Right when he passed away, I really wanted to put it out. I made tapes of it and gave them to people that I knew in the industry. Gave it to some labels and some radio people. No one really seemed interested at all. Yeah, it was kind of a touchy situation because I didn't want to exploit the fact that he was just killed. Then when I started the label, I felt like the songs that I released as singles were just appropriate for the time, but a lot of the other ones had a different sound. Like an early nineties sound. I just didn't want people to hear it and judge it like, 'oh, this is some old played out shit.' Whereas now when you hear it, you know that it's from a different time period. It's kind of obvious. Hip-hop fans are more open-minded now.

Speaking of that, do you think that most Stones Throw fans in particular are familiar with Charizma or is this going to be an introduction?
I feel like it's an introduction for a lot of people. I'm glad that people are able to hear it. When he died, he was basically just a footnote in a newspaper and no one even knew about his skills and not a lot of people really talked about him. That was really frustrating to me. You name some other MCs that have also died horrible violent deaths and to this day... I don't know, it's hard for me to see that Charizma isn't even in that category.

Are you still in contact with his family?
Yeah, I've been in contact with his mom and his sisters. His girlfriend at the time, she lives in LA so I see her from time to time. We go to lunch or whatever.

What are their feelings about the album?
Yeah, that was something that was difficult for me, to approach his mom and ask her what she thought of it. Obviously, her outcome determined if the album would come out or not. She thought it was a great idea.

What was Charizma's deal with apple juice? Did he really bug out on apple juice?
Yeah, he used to collect Martinelli's bottles. Whenever you saw him, he always had apple juice in his hand. He didn't drink any alcohol; he didn't smoke or do any drugs. It was just important for him to let people know that he was crazy without any drugs or alcohol. He was definitely one of the illest people I ever met and he brought it out in me too.

Newsfeed October 2, 2014