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Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf
Big Shots
Stones Throw 2003

"Here is something my Dad can't understand/ How I could just kick a jam" — Me, 1998

There are nearly indescribable moments in hip-hop. Times when the punch line to a witty couplet drops and the whole room burns up on contact. Times when a breakbeat jumpslaps you in the face, demanding you pay attention to how dope it is. Times when you recognize an obscure Stax sample and dribble all over yourself in unabashed glee.

I feel these moments all the time. My brain feels them, and it affects my relationships, my self-confidence, my dignity and my wallet. Too many 12s and obscure EPs purchased. Too many embarrassing moments when I want to bust a move. Hip-hop has never given my Pop this feeling. And he's really missing out.

It's obvious Peanut Butter Wolf feels what I'm talking about. A noted producer, P.B. Wolf, who founded the reliable hip-hop imprint Stones Throw, has been prolific over the last decade with contributions to the lauded "Return of the DJ" series, Herbaliser remixes, and 'Peanut Butter Breaks' records. Strangely, though, his masterpiece has been in the can for 10 years. Thankfully, it's arrived.

Charizma, a magnetic MC with flow, slick lyricism and street knowledge, was gunned down in 1993 for unknown reasons, and it's a crying shame, because Big Shots makes P.B. Wolf and Charizma sound like a West Coast Gang Starr. Originally scheduled for release by Hollywood Basic, the album was shelved by P.B. Wolf following his partner's brutal death. After returning from a grieving hiatus, he opened shop on Stones Throw, which houses Madlib and all his personas, along with Wildchild and Medaphor.

While employing the manic fight funk of Public Enemy and chop-suey sampling of DJ Premier, P.B. Wolf hooks Charizma up with more than a few of the spine-cracking moments I'm talking about. Charizma obliges with rough-and-ready boasting that, surprisingly, lacks profanity. It may seem weak hearing a West Coast MC, rapping in gangsta rap's heyday, without the token "Bitches ain't shit but ho's and tricks" fury, but his aggression is obvious. A Fresh Prince he's not. In fact, it's refreshing to hear an arrogant, angry rapper relying more on quick-witted similes than fuck-shit-cunt folly. "Here's a Smirk" in particular billows with a stuttering guitar slice and a showcase for Charizma. "My World Premiere" slams with a gritty snare and a sampled roar from a crew. Straight braggadocio comes spewing from a blooming-before-our-eyes Charizma.

"Methods" smoothly lulls with a crackly organ while philosophy on wax comes courtesy of the late Charles Hicks: "This is my design/ to make my name is rewind/ labels pull crimes/ it's time for me to resign/ the style's deep/ even when we fall asleep/ dreaming of the usual — a rap beat."

This is a goosebumps-worthy moment. There's no defining it. The beat, the hook and the lyrics all groove. It's a small moment in time, when a song can solve all other bullshit. It doesn't use an ear-crunching thump and there's no idiotic hollering about women who resemble saltshakers. Peanut Butter Wolf has accomplished a world's worth in hip-hop, but it would have been exciting to see him achieve it with his wily mouthpiece alongside him.

by Sean Fennessey

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