PB Wolf Interview
- January 09, 1999
Where did your name, Peanut Butter Wolf, come from?
The name is the most hip hop name I could have thought of although I didn't think of it. An 8 year old kid made it up. To him, it was an imaginary monster that was the equivalent of the boogie monster. But to me, peanut butter is cute and non threatening and funky, and yet a wolf is kinda the opposite in that they are rugged, well respected, and almost feared. Put the two together and you got confusion. The name kind of means something different for everyone that hears it and that's why I think I like it the most.
When did you seriously get into hip hop?
I got into it in 1979, when I first bought 'Rappers Delight' and 'The Breaks' and stuff like that. At the same time, I was buying a lot of funk and soul. I didn't realize that hip hop was a whole culture with DJing and breaking and graffiti until about 1982. At that time, the whole Electro thing was getting big, which I was into as well. Even artists like Grandmaster Flash and Bambaataa released some great electro songs, 'Scorpio' and 'Planet Rock,' yet unfortunately electro doesn't get the props I think it deserves. Anyway, by 1985, I kinda gave up on funk and soul and was really buying hip hop exclusively, and in 1986, I started buying breaks and had a better understanding of where the hip hop beats came from.
Who are your musical influences?
You have to look at the inside of my CD for that one.
How do you feel about the popularity of West Coast underground growing as much as the east?
I think west coast has had its share of ups and downs through the years. When hip hop records first started coming out, there really were no hip hop records coming from the West. The one record I can think of is 'King Monkey Rap' by Bad Man Dann from 1980. It was the first xxx record I can think of, unless you consider Blowfly to be rap music. I think he was the precursor to Too Short, who started having vinyl out in around 1985, but probably had tapes out much longer.
But during the whole elecrto boom, there were some great records from the West Coast. The obvious ones were the Dream Team and Egyptian Lover and Knights of the Turntable and Wrecking Crew, but there were a lot of other ones that didn't get their props. I used to make mixtapes with one side 'New York' hip hop which was around 100 BPM, and the other side west coast hip hop which was around 120 BPM. I didn't do it that way to segregate the two coasts, it was more or less to keep the tape flowing in terms of BPM's. But, at this time, west coast had a big underground hip hop scene, and once the majors got involved, it was harder to put out your own record on the West. Of course there was Ice T, and King T, and Rodney O, and Eazy E, but it was really only a few people controlling the whole west coast.
Then, in the 90's, there became a stigma attached to the west coast by the east coast that has been hard to overcome. But it made it that much more of a fun challenge to prove ourselves. People would associate the Bay Area with Hammer since he sold the most units, yet people like Kut Masta Kurt, King Shameek, Sway and Tech, Automator, and myself were putting out records at the same time. My first single on vinyl came out in 1990. At this time, we were getting more love from Europe and Australia and later Japan, then we were from our own country.I think over the past five years, the west coast hip hop movement has been organized to the point where people began recognizing it, and over the last two years, even the heads in NYC are listening to us as well.
As a DJ, when do you feel DJ's as performers will be taken more seriously as artists ? Because I know most of America think DJ's are a bunch of idiots scratching their records.
I think they are already considered to be artists. In order to be considered a recording artist, you have to release records. There are some DJ's who are great live, but can't record a song to save their life, and others who are great in the studio, but don't belong on stage. Then, you have some who can do both. Those are the ones that are taken the most seriously as an artist. Since my time to practice DJing is limited and I've never been the battle DJ type, I have to step outside my body and ask myself, what can I bring to the table as a DJ in a club atmosphere. I like to take influence from all the DJ's I see. Last night I saw Cut Chemist, Numark, J Rocc, Babu, and Rhettmatic and they each have their own thing that sets them apart from each other. That's the key.
Who are you feeling right now?
Right now, I'm feeling Madlib from Lootpack as far as the beats go. He is on a level of achievement that few people will ever reach.
Are you happy with you and your labelmates current support from the underground or you feel more heads could wake up to your music?
Both. I'm appreciative of the people who support the label, yet sometimes I feel upset that the records aren't reaching more people. For me, quality of listener always outweighs quantity of listener, so I'd rather have 10 people really into my work than have 100 people kind of into it. I don't want to see my records in the dollar bin in a few years.
Do you feel MP3s help or hurt artists'?
It depends on what type of MP3 and how you define hurt. MP3s that are bootlegged by someone who wants people to visit their site can hurt an artist, if it discourages record sales, but I think an MP3 that intoduces listener to the artist and starts a relationship will obviously help.
Do you feel with Eminem doing so well, and remedy gaining more respect with each release, that white people in hip hop will get respect from other black emcees and DJ's etc.?
White emcees with good lyrics, a good delivery, and good stage presence get respect from everyone regardless of color. Sometimes, being white intensifies the response you get, whether it be positive or negative. A wack white emcee will get undeserved extra dissing and a good white emcee will get undeserved extra props.
Are you more happy producing or DJing?
I am happy DJing and producing, but I hate the set up involved with both of them. Going through records for a gig can take up to 10 hours since my records are so varied. I have records for DJing, records for sampling, and records purely for listening to go through. Setting up to record a song means a lot of plugging and unplugging wires and working with tempermental equiptment that doesn't always want to cooporate.
How would you define your style?
I don't know what my style is. I pride myself in the variety of my work. Even if you listen to my album, it becomes obvious that I'm influenced by a lot of different music eras and that some of my songs sound like I made them years ago and others sound like something that would be made in the year 2020. My style is dated futuristic.
Whats in PB Wolf's future?
My future plans include acting, since I never go to the movies, album cover design, since I'm more picky about the artwork of my records than the music itself, and recording with a rock band - since I have no knowlege of recent rock music.
Who would you like to work with?
I'd like to work with Captain Funkaho, who is working on an album. Other than that, I still want to record with Prince Paul, since we've been talking about it for a few years now, and DJ Design since we have similar backgrounds and work well together.
How do you feel about online hip hop?
I like online hip hop because it reaches the people who are fanatical about the music. It isn't as flashy as a video or a magazine, so it's all about content, which means it appeals to the people who are more passionate about the music.
Do you think mainstream emcees wrongly represent hip hop by being all about the money and not worried about the art form?
A main topic of hip hop has always been $$$. Since the days of the jams in the park, people came to the park to party and the emcee came to entertain. Since hip hop has been the voice of the finacially oppressed for so long, the ones who created the culture have always been dreaming of having more dough and expressing that in their rhymes. So fascination with money has always been a part of hip hop. As long as it's understood that it's make believe, there's nothing wrong with it. Most people who have achieved that level of financial success have a whole new set of problems to deal with.
Who do you think is being most slept on and deserves more attention?
If PB Wolf ever goes mainstream will it change you?
I was asked to do a remake of an old song from the 1970's for a compilation for a major label the other day that would have paid $8,000 for about a days work. The song featured a platinum selling rapper and was something I could have done in my sleep, but for some reason, I couldn't get myself to do it. I asked a lot of people in the industry for advice, and got a lot of encouragement to go through with it, but in the end I decided it was something that I couldn't see my name on.That being said, I see nothing wrong with selling a lot of units, as long as it's doing songs that I feel good about doing. I'd like to see a gold record on my wall some day or a Grammy for something I contributed to, but it would mean nothing if it was a song I didn't like as a fan myself.
Any last words you would like to say for the fans?
Yes, I'd like to say that DJ Rhettmatic eats carrots.
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