Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993 4xLP Box Set


Stones Throw Records (2014)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for thirty plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf were a duo that was active in the early 90s.  They were briefly signed to Hollywood Basic, but left the label before anything other than a split promo tape with Lifers Group was released.  While plotting their next steps, Charizma was tragically killed in a mugging.  Eventually Peanut Butter Wolf went on to found the indie record label, Stones Throw.  It was through Stones Throw records that I first came across Charizma in the early 2000s.

When I worked in radio promo back then, I would often trade CDs with other radio promoters that worked for other companies.  One of those places I traded CDs with did the bulk of promotion for labels like Stones Throw and Def Jux.  In one of these trades in 2003 I received the Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf album Big Shots.  I didn't really know anything about its history or that it was a record recorded in the 90s, but I remember liking it enough to keep instead of selling it to the local used CD laundering store, but I also never listened to it much.  Eventually I ended up selling it as part of a purge.

It wasn't until many years later that I learned more about the history of Charizma, what had happened and when those songs were recorded that I gave them another chance.  Really paying attention to the songs and not just having it be background noise made me sit up and take notice.  At the exact moment I got back into them a few years ago, the LP had been out of print for a little bit.  I also found out that this 40 song box set had been released in 2014 and checked out some of those songs.  That's when I decided this box set was the thing to pick up.  It took a while to find a copy at a good price, but I did finally track one down.

All of the songs from the Big Shots album are also included in this box set with the one major difference being that the version of "Gatha Round" on the box set is an earlier, demo version.  Aside from that, all of those songs are on this set, so this is the one that ended up in the collection.  It's really great and I'm now realizing that I've already written quite a bit here without mentioning the music much.

These tracks are classic golden era tunes with Native Tongue-esque, east coast style production mixed in with west coast style MCing, that had way more in common with Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief than Dr. Dre or G Funk style west coast gangsta rapping.  Is every one of these 40 songs perfect?  No, there's some tracks that are obviously sketches and maybe early or unfinished versions of songs, but it's still a super enjoyable listen and there's some real gold sprinkled throughout the set.

While Big Shots is an easier and slightly more cohesive listen than trying to digest 40 songs in one shot, there's so much good stuff here that's not on the album.  Right now it seems that both that album and this box set are out of print.  For reasons I cannot really understand, both are now going for nearly the same price on Discogs or other secondary markets, mostly because the price of Big Shots has increased quite a bit lately.  If it's me, I would advise plunking down a bit more money for the version with 40 songs over the one with 15. 

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Circa 1990-1993:

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