Chris Manak, A.K.A Peanut Butter Wolf, owner/artist of Stones Throw Records said he discovered popular music as a young child in the mid-70s. The first song that impacted Manak was Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. He explains that he used to watch Saturday morning cartoons, like other children of his age. Before the cartoon would start the channel would play music and at that time Marvin Gaye’s song would always be playing. “I remember liking the music, the vocals, and even the message it brought. Kids understand more than we give them credit for.” In the late 1970’s Chris started buying records and receiving records as gifts for birthdays and holidays.
Manak decided against college, but eventually went back to get his degree in Business Marketing. While in college, Manak put out his first record, You Can’t Swing This, Lyrical Prophecy. He was able to do this with a little help from his father who pitched in $500 to get the record released. They only pressed 500 unmastered copies and had no idea how to get it distributed. Even though they only were able to sell half, they were still seen as local heroes and they felt accomplished.
Later he met Charizma and they began to think bigger. They wanted to be on a larger label like Elektra or Jive. Everything seemed to be falling into place, Source was starting to be published, as well at Yo MTV Raps became popular or rap artists and groups. They “settled” with the Walt Disney label, Hollywood Basics, who promised them artistic freedom, which was far from the truth. As far as the artistic freedom, the exact opposite was the case. Hollywood Basics didn’t have any experience with hip hop artists, forcing Manak and Charizma to leave the label before Hollywood Basics shut down their hip hop division. Unfortunately, two months later Charizma passed away. Manak quit music for a while, but then got back into it by making beats and DJing. He came out with several compilations, Return of the DJ, Peanut Butter Breaks, and Step On Our Egos.
Manak realized he loved promoting as much as recording, and decided he would now run a label, which was Stones Throw Records. Stones Throw is very personal to Manak. He only puts out records he likes. He doesn’t focus on what others like. Manak said, “This has worked for me so far, and if it stops working for me, it will be the end of Stones Throw as a label. I’ve passed on some artists that I knew would sell a lot of units because I didn’t like the songs. That sounds like a bad business move and from a purely financial standpoint it is one, but profit isn’t the only thing that drives my label. If money were my sole motivation, I’d be rich by now because so far I’ve attained everything I’ve put my mind to. I may be wealthy someday, but only as an indirect consequence of putting out what I believe to be good music.”
Manak is in the game to help artists. Together they decided how they would spend money on promoting their work and they share the profits after expenses. His career has come full circle. He started his career buying records and now he is releasing records. He takes pride in “preserving this endangered species.”
In a time when major labels struggled and many independents were forced to close their doors, Wolf has managed to come out on top. Wolf could have easily sold Stones Throw plenty of times over, making his money and living in his fame. However, Wolf is passionate about Stones Throw and the music he chooses to press up. It’s the same passion that made Wolf and Stones Throw legendary.