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“Challengers” releases in theaters on April 26.
Review: “Challengers”
Published April 13, 2024

Peanut Butter takes all the credit (and brains)

Peanut Butter Wolf doesn’t have a track on ‘B-ball Zombie War,’ but still gets his photo on the front.

As one of the most well-respected indie producers in hip-hop, Peanut Butter Wolf has quite an impressive roster of rappers and beat-makers to hit up when he wants something done. As a result, he didn’t have to make a single track on the new compilation, “B-ball Zombie War,” and still got to slap his name and photograph on the cover.

Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib, Guilty Simpson, Percee P

WHEN: 10 p.m., Nov. 29
WHERE: Foundation nightclub, 10 S. 5th St., Minneapolis
TICKETS: 18+, $20,

PB Wolf deserves all of the praise he receives, with a visually and musically mesmerizing stage performance and an extensive library of tracks.

However, perhaps Peanut Butter’s largest claim to fame is his knack for finding the best producers in underground hip-hop, signing some to his Stones Throw record label. Madlib, the late J. Dilla, J. Rocc, and DJ Babu of the Dilated Peoples all drop beats on “B-ball Zombie War.”

While “B-ball Zombie War” sounds more like a bomb-ass mix tape and less like a fully integrated compilation effort, each song exemplifies the work coming out of the indie hip-hop machine that is Stones Throw Records. Each track stands alone, not meshing in sound, style or content with the one preceding it or following it.

Although the big names in indie hip-hop like Madlib, MF Doom, J. Dilla, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip and Guilty Simpson earn most of the attention on the album, PB Wolf manages to introduce some new names to the selective vocabulary of hipster hip-hop heads.

The album kicks off with Madlib and newcomer Karriem Riggins together on a jumbled, cut-and-paste track that is relatively complex but sounds rather naked.

Aloe Blacc, another newcomer to the Stones Throw family, provides a nice mid-album relief from the heavy-bumping, complicated beats of J. Dilla, J. Rocc and Madlib. Blacc, a soul singer of Panamanian descent, sings “Find a Way,” a horn-heavy track that features Blacc’s slightly-raspy voice crooning a vintage-sounding R&B/soul melody.

The late, and undisputedly great, J. Dilla provides music for two of the album’s juiciest tracks. On the first, “Lightworking,” Jay Dee rips an amazing sample from an old-school jingle and mixes it with his signature siren and a mess of echoing drips and drops. Talib Kweli and Q-Tip spit over the beat, which is great and all, but J. Dilla’s beat is the star of the track.

Then, on “Mash’s Revenge,” J. Dilla teams up with MF Doom and Guilty Simpson in a tipsy, halting song that Doom frequently works with. The beat itself is constructed from a simple, off-key piano line and chilled out, with minimal drums. Doom and Guilty Simpson work well together, their deep voices meshing and their very different lyrical content balancing each other.

Peanut Butter Wolf’s “all stars” like Dilla, Madlib, Doom, Guilty Simpson and Percee P play the most prominent parts on “B-ball Zombie War.” Like a choir teacher giving solos to her best students, Wolf rewards his indie hip-hop elite while making himself look good at the same time.

You know, like Peanut Butter Wolf and “B-ball Zombie War,” that you’ve got some weight in the industry when you can completely outsource an album and still get all the credit for it.

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