July 22, 2013 Share


Peanut Butter Wolf, you’d think that with a name like that he must be one wild character, the type that is into everything and everyone, living the wild and crazy life. Yet, Chris Manak, a native of San Jose, California who has been DJing since he was a kid, is anything but. That’s not to say Manak is the forgettable sort. He has never been one to roll with champagne or molly popping posse’s, he isn’t the braggadocios type of DJ who is constantly shouting out his supremacy over the tracks he plays, it’s never been about the drinks or drugs or bling or the shine or the bikini clad ladies or the gangsta lifestyle. No, Peanut Butter Wolf as he has come to be known has never been about that type of persona, for this white boy from the west coast it’s always been about the music, that good shit, that funk shit, that old school hip hop shit, that make a listener go, “wtf” shit.

Manak has been a fan of music since he was a small child. He claims it was just for fun, and began penning rhymes when he was around 16, but didn’t feel comfortable with his voice so he kept it under wraps and took on producing for other acts instead. He also scored a gig at local radio station KSJS which is where he met Kim Collet, a fellow radio disc jockey and head of PMR Records. In 1989, Manak produced and released a track on PMR named “You Can’t Swing This” by a local group that went by the name Lyrical Prophecy. This brought him to the attention of Charles Hicks, a.k.a. Charizma, a local rapper with ill mic skills and a drive that Manak admired. PBW scheduled him in when he could since he was producing for a lot of other local talent, but eventually the two hit it off and became friends. They formed a group, recorded a few demos, and began performing around San Jose. Soon they were the talk of the town and it wasn’t long before they were “discovered” by a gentleman by the name of Matt Brown who heard them on the radio and offered to be their manager. They went looking for a deal and eventually signed with Hollywood Basic (now Hollywood Records) the same label on which Organized Konfusion and DJ Shadow were signed. Things were looking up.

Unfortunately, nothing ever materialized from the relationship with the new label. Hollywood Basic made it hard for them to record and continuously turned down everything the duo submitted. The label apparently wanted something true to their name, basic, as in basic pop or perhaps basic gangsterism, but not the high minded lyrical fair Charizma and PBW were interested in putting out. They managed to tour a bit and perform live with industry heavyweights such as Nas, The Pharcyde, and House of Pain among others, and they received a pretty good dose of press appearing on Sway & King Tech’s famous Wake Up Show and were featured in Billboard and Urb magazines. Yet, no official release ever materialized and the label dropped them. Sadly, before they could sign with a new label Charizma was shot and killed in a 1993 mugging.

Charizma & PB Wolf – Tell You Something

PBW took half a year off from the music game, but upon returning he set out to set things straight. He dove right back into producing for various artists and also released his own productions, most notably the must have for any real deal turntablist, the Peanut Butter Breaks instrumental album. He then founded his own label Stones Throw and the first release “My World Premiere” was from his deceased homie Charizma. The track launched what would become one of the most revered underground labels in the hip hop game and beyond.

Over the years, Stones Throw would release music from the likes of Madlib, the late J Dilla, A-Trak, Aloe Blacc, Homeboy Sandman, Dam-Funk, The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble, Oh No, Mayer Hawthorne, Rasco, Lootpack, and the near mystical Quasimoto, and many more. All underground. All diverse. All quality material.

These days, Peanut Butter Wolf keeps it humble, even when he’s dressed in a pimp suit. He occasionally jumps in to the studio to play the producer role, but it’s something he admits he is not doing as much of these days. He prefers to travel the world dropping his eclectic collection of old school 45’s, Hip Hop, Funk, and more on the masses and in filling the A&R role for his still “just under the radar” record label as he puts it. Thing is, 20 years on and both him and his label are as revered as ever. Not bad for the kid with the weird name.

ALL 45’S Live at A CLUB CALLED RHONDA – Nov 13, 2010