In the store | CHARIZMA & PEANUT BUTTER WOLF – CIRCA 1990-1993
Just over 20 years since Charizma was shot & killed, Peanut Butter Wolf went back to the archives to put together a 4LP anthology of his work, Circa 1990-1993. The collection is available now in the Stones Throw shop, and available everywhere next week. Here’s a few of the tracks, with the behind the scenes story written by Wolf. Thanks also to the folks at Spin whose idea it was to put this playlist together.
Raquel was one of the earliest recordings we did. The sampler I was using didn’t have sequencing so I had to hit the loops live every time. It was Jeff Jank’s sampler who I was in a rock group with at the time (and who has been the art director/web designer of Stones Throw for the past several years). And this songs was pre-“Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf.” We were Charlie C and Chris Cut. The vocals were done live to cassette cuz neither of us had multi-track equipment and weren’t serious enough yet to go into an actual recording studio. In those days, I was recording with like 10 different rappers, trying to do a compilation album similar to one Marley Marl did in 1988 with all of the rappers over my beats, but as I spent more time with Charizma, I realized he was the one I wanted to spend all my time with cuz he had the most promise. We also got along better than I did with any of the other rappers. He was almost as weird as me. Or maybe weirder.
It’s Trendy never got mixed down while he was alive and was never released til now. About half of the reel to reel tapes were ones I paid for back when we were going to studios and I physically held on to through the years and the other half were bought by Charizma back then and his mom held on to those ones after he died. I totally forgot that he had master tapes until I told his mom a few months ago that I was doing this box set and she reminded me and offered them to me. She had always been so supportive of his career while he was alive and has still been so helpful to me with putting together this box set 20 years after he’s gone. She had master tapes, pics, videos, you name it. A lot of stuff I’d never seen or heard before. “It’s Trendy” was inspired musically by “Take It Personal” by Gangstarr. We made that one right around the same time and always looked up to Guru and Primo.
My World Premiere was kind of a fluke. It was the simplest beat of any song I ever did for Charizma. Basically, we did a song called “Red Light, Green Light” before we got signed to Hollywood Records and after we got signed, we both decided to remix it with different lyrics and a kinda different beat. Back then, I’d layer about 3 or 4 drums together from different sources and we had just finished recording and mixing the “Red Light, Green Light” remix and I decided to strip almost everything down from that song to one drum beat and a bass sound and slowed it way down. This was all done at Fantasy Studios which Hollywood Records booked the studio time for and was 3 times as expensive per hour than we had been paying at the local studio where we recorded most of our stuff pre-Hollywood Records. So since we finished recording Red Light Green Light, we experimented with that one. Charizma did one long verse, then we recorded several tracks of him and I pretending to be party people in the background and sped up the tape and slowed it down while recording the “party people” voices to make it sound like a bunch of different people rather than just us 2. And the simplest of all our songs ended up being the one we’re now most known for.
Methods – I think this was the last song we recorded before he past away. Our earlier songs were all “hype” cuz it was the “Choice Is Yours-Black Sheep/Jump Around-House Of Pain/Scenario-Tribe Called Quest” era, but when we recorded this, hip hop started getting much slower and darker. Ironically, musically, “Methods” is a very sad and emotional sounding song and I never could’ve predicted it to be our last song or why it would be. It was my idea to have it go the first 45 seconds before bringing the drums in and he actually integrated a line from a rap I wrote in 1987 when I wanted to be a rapper and made it sound cooler than I ever could: “dreaming of the usual, a rap beat.” I was so excited he used that line.
The Countdown is possibly my favorite Charizma song and the only one I didn’t produce. It was produced by G Luv who was in a local San Jose hip hop group Homeliss Derilex that Charizma and I looked up to back then. Unfortunately, G didn’t have the master to the song, but a friend of his found out we were doing the box set and gave us a dub from cassette. It’s really hissy/lo-fi, but you get the idea when you hear it.
That’s Word never got finished while he was alive, but soon after he passed away, I met up with Automator who lived not too far from me. He was in the middle of doing the Dr Octagon record, but agreed to mix some music down for me on the side as a favor and he mixed this one down. I always felt like it didn’t have enough bass, but Automator really was good with compression and brought stuff out in the song that I couldn’t without him. I remember he’d always play songs he was working on against songs on “The Chronic” album to compare sonically because he was a big fan of Dr Dre’s mix downs and mastering, even though his music (and mine) was so different than Dre.
Apple Juice Break was made strictly for our live shows. Our live shows were high powered and he’d be running around, getting the crowd so excited throughout the show and needed a break in the energy so we made that. Highs and lows are the secret to a good live show in my opinion. When that would come on, we’d sit down and drink Apple Juice and take a breather, then follow it up with another energetic song. Basically split our show in half like an intermission. Never had any intention of it being heard outside of the live setting, but when I released the Charizma album in 2003, I added that in there, kinda as in insider tribute to him, yet a lot of people liked it without even understanding the reasoning behind it. There’s even a blog that named themselves applejuicebreak.com
Tell You Something was recorded in the east bay in supposedly the same studio as “I Get Around” (Tupac), “I Got Five On It” (Luniz) and “Why You Treat Me So Bad” (Club Nouveax). I remember there was a gold record on the wall for “Why You Treat Me” and according to the engineer, when The Luniz saw that, it gave them the idea to sample the song to make their OWN hit record and their version ended up being bigger than the original. Ironically, Charizma’s sister who pretends to be Charizma’s female love interest in “Tell you Something” was going out with Yukmouth of the Luniz at the time and eventually had a baby with him (and is still with him to this day). Confusing, huh?
Charizma What, from what I remember, the first song we did in an actual recording studio instead of my bedroom (which had really shitty equipment like a radio shack mic) and the first time, I could really hear Charizma’s potential. I remember thinking at the time, “he could be as big as LL Cool J”. He had the same confidence and appeal with the ladies. We also recorded a song called “High School Love” around that time which sounded like the softer, more vulnerable side of LL. That’s Charizma’s mom’s favorite song and was recorded around the same time as “Charizma What.”
Devotion. This song went through more major rebuilds than any of our other songs. We seriously have like 4 versions I can think of off the top of my head that are completely different from each other. My favorite version is the last one we did in ’93. Much slower than the others and Charizma comes off more confident. I sampled from flute player Herbie Mann, but just used sounds and created my own melody. I kinda remember being inspired by “Otha Fish” musically when I made that.