Music is a primal and universal force and no matter the popular or business trend of the time, it is a field that not only encourages but actually demands innovation. "Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records" follows the standard arc of your typical musical documentary but keeps that independently creative edge as it truly tries to get us to love the music that we are hearing.
"Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton" is about the avant-garde Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records. The film weaves together rare concert footage, never-before-see archival material, inner-circle home video and photographs and in-depth interviews with the artists who put Stones Throw Records on the map. Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton gives an exclusive look into the label's left-of-center artists, history, culture, and global following. The film features exclusive interviews with Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Common, Questlove, Talib Kweli, Mike D (The Beastie Boys), Tyler the Creator, and many more.
It's not a film that admittedly reinvents the cinematic wheel, but "Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton" manages to rise above and stand out from the rest of the pack thanks to a fairly unfettered and nonsense look at the label's founder and one of its key artists; Chris Manak. Better known to audiences as the Peanut Butter Wolf.
Co-writer and director Jeff Broadway puts together a portrait of musician, not unlike many that have been out there and are being formed every minute. That of a musician who wasn't bound or locked down by any musical boundaries because growing up he was influenced by quite a bit, from punk to funk, from new wave to soul and everything else in-between...except heavy metal. As we see Wolf's formative years and how he got an initial record deal along with the struggles and road blocks that he encountered along the way, it's an inspirational story. He didn't conform to succeed and resisted the urge to become a commodity that is all too common in the modern musical landscape, rather he found it by sticking to his guns and being a curator and champion for records and ideas that needed it.
Listening to peers like Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Common, Kanye West, Mike D from the Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg talk about Wolf's and Stones Throw's influence on not only rap music, but music in general it is quite possible that Peanut Butter Wolf is one of the more unheralded musical geniuses of the modern age. A cavalcade of fantastic artists like J Dilla, Mayer Hawthorne, Madlib, Aloe Blacc and others have all passed through the doors at Stones Throw, and while Broadway doesn't sugar coat it mentioning that so many of these artists have left for green pastures, there is no resentment or ego. There is nothing but love, if only because these label did the one thing that so many other corporate conglomerates never could, they gave something different a chance to succeed.
That is the real message at the heart of this film, "Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records" keeps genuine music alive by encouraging the creative spirit, because at the end of the day even though selling millions of records is a nice thing...but for these artists, being remembered, for better or for worse is just so much more important and that's what truly keeps music alive.
4 out of 5 stars.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are top notch and the special features on the disc include a "B-Side" with extra footage from the film and there is a soundtrack CD in with the Blu-Ray.