Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton is a feature-length documentary about avant-garde Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records. The film weaves together rare concert footage, never-before-see...
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Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton is a feature-length documentary about 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.Written by
Needs you to have interest and knowledge coming in the door, but for those that do it is a well paced and entertaining film
I heard about this film over a year ago now and was immediately interested to see it when I got a chance. My knowledge of Stones Throw is limited perhaps, but I take an interest when I see the name because since I saw their name on the work of Madlib and Doom, I continued to move forward and backwards in some of their output such as Quasi, Dilla and other names that many people may know either by name or influence. This is important when coming to the film, because it expects and needs you to at least already be interested in the people and also have at least some level of knowledge of the label and the main players.
It shows this form the very start where we open on a party of some sort happening in an open room; from here we get credits showing the main names over animated versions of them – although the main character is a yellowy creature who, if you don't know who Quasimodo is, then probably he looks pretty weird. After this you really don't see names on screen. Of course people refer to others by name, and there are occasionally names seen on posters in the background, but there is absolutely none of the 'footers' you would often see on documentaries with names and titles in them – this is so apparent in its absence that it is a clear decision. So, if you do not have a working knowledge of the main era of this label and the music and artists associated with it, then this film will not help you.
Aside from this rather closed-door approach, the film is well structured and I guess it is a sensible approach since if you do not know any of those involved, then probably you're not watching this film. When the film reached the core Madlib/Dilla/Madvillan era, I was in my comfort zone, but outside of this the film did enough to help me when I was not. The structure follows the time-line well; giving the main people and events enough time but without getting bogged down in them; in particular I thought it handled several high profile deaths very well, so that these did not become the story but rather remained part of the story.
The contributions are varied but mostly the access to key people is what makes it work. There are a few very big names in there too, but they are appropriately kept brief befitting their part in the story, and they do not fill the space just because they have a big presence (Kweli, Mike D, West and Common for instance). The contributions capture the sense of excitement and independence of the label, and the nature of PB Wolf himself – only the absence of Doom is noticeably by his contributions being lifts from other interviews, but this is not too bad. The archive footage including performances and home video is impressively utilized so it can be enjoyed but doesn't slow the film down by existing for the sake of it.
So, you really do need to already know a bit about the label and be interested, because the film does require you to be (quite deliberately so), but it is engaging and entertaining enough to carry out as long as you come with that. The main issue I had with it was pausing it to note down names of artists or albums from the label that I had not heard of but wanted to check out due to what I heard in this documentary.
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