The following is an excerpt from Peanut Butter Wolf's feature and video selection in the latest issue of Wax Poetics. To read the rest of the article check out Wax Poetics #41.
WOLF: About five years ago, I started “VJing” at my gigs using music video clips instead of records. I decided to go the video route during a tour I did with Madlib, DOOM, and J Dilla where I realized I was starting to DJ at more “performance-type” gigs than the dance-floor-oriented club ones I used to do. It was always something I wanted to do. Even going back to my childhood—decades before YouTube spoiled music fans around the world—I had to struggle to see the videos I wanted to see. As a child of the early ’80s and MTV during their “rock-only” era, I was always bummed that I wasn’t able to see videos from my favorite artists who were mainly doing soul, funk, and rap music. There was a Friday night show on the USA cable network called Night Flight that played cool stuff in the new wave/art rock genre and slipped in a few hip-hop videos here and there, probably thanks to Blondie and the Clash making it cool. On another local Bay Area show called Magic Number Video, I saw videos from the Whispers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Pieces of a Dream, but it was a rare treat to see a UTFO or Whodini or Fearless Four video. I’ve always listened to hip-hop, but as a kid, never got to see it.
Yellow Magic Orchestra “Computer Game” (1979)
This was probably the first electronic song I bought on record back in 1980, but I had no idea they made a video for it until recently. I was always fascinated with electronic music since I heard [Gershon Kingsley’s] “Pop Corn” in the first grade. Movies like Star Wars and video games like Space Invaders and Asteroids probably helped the sci-fi encouragement for me as well. Watching it now, I’m impressed by the special effects and graphics that were more elaborate than even Michael Jackson, who later became not only the King of Pop, but also the king of video budgets. I’m guessing this video with its take on Activision’s Laser Blast started their involvement with scoring videos games. I bought the Xevious theme song by them on vinyl on my last trip to Japan. I think they composed Dig Dug too.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “For Kate I Wait” (2004)
I was in Paris doing an in-store for Lacoste, and their head designer, Christophe [Lemaire], is a huge music fan. He’s one of the only guys I’ve ever met in fashion who really knows his shit and turns me on to music I didn’t know about. No Zoolander stereotypes with Christophe! After my set, he asked me if I liked Ariel Pink, and I said I never heard of him. I live in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, and he told me, “He’s from L.A., like you, and makes great music.” He showed me some stuff, and I was instantly converted. About three weeks later, back in L.A., I was walking to the bank from the Stones Throw office and saw someone wearing an Ariel Pink T-shirt. I yelled, “Hey, where’d you get that shirt?” He said, “I’m Ariel Pink!” I’ve bumped into him three times on that same street since then. I still need a shirt, though.
LL Cool J “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” (live on Soul Train 1986)
Watching Soul Train episodes from the mid-’80s, you notice that when there were singers on, the crowd would politely dance along, but when they had rappers, the place would erupt. Everyone would jump and scream like it was Beatlemania. I think that’s the “H.E.R.” that Common refers to [in “I Used to Love H.E.R.”].
Jonzun Crew “We Are the Jonzun Crew” (1983)
I’m always gonna go to bat for the Jonzun Crew. I can’t believe how cheap their used records go for these days, or how crowds hardly ever respond when I play their songs—or this video. But I made my own Jonzun Crew T-shirt, and whenever I wear it, I get at least one compliment. The Jonzun Crew were right up there with Kraftwerk in my book when I was a kid. There’s a nice “before they were stars” cameo in this video by a very young, pop-locking Bobby Brown, who the Jonzun Crew later produced.