The Rise And Fall And Rise Again of Stu Stone

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All Photography by Robert Kerian

From one day to the next nobody took our phone calls. We were like pariahs.

At one point several years ago, Stu Stone was a performer who stood on the precipice of greatness… well, relatively speaking. It was 2006. Stu was blowing up as the enthusiastic sidekick MC on Jamie Kennedy’s Blowin’ Up, the MTV semi-reality series chronicling their hilarious hip-hop adventures on a quest for a record deal. Blowin’ Up was a sensation. It quickly developed a cult following and even spawned an album by the same name with a hit single, “Rolling with Bob Saget.”

At the time, everyone (at a coffee shop I hang at) was asking, “Who is that hilarious little Jew rapper on that Jamie Kennedy’s show on Satan’s favorite network MTV?” That “little Jew rapper” was Stu, and he was both a hit on Youtube and the actual tube. But it all came crashing down on the final episode of Blowin’ Up, when Stu and Jamie thought it would be a hoot if they performed their hip-hop act in prosthetic makeup made to make them look African-American (like what Robert Downey Jr. did in Tropic Thunder). The routine went down at a Three 6 Mafia concert to the aghast of a mostly black, Southern audience. Let’s just say there was “some” negative feedback.

“From one day to the next nobody took our phone calls. We were like pariahs,” Stu recalls in between Parliament cigarette breaks lamenting the semantics of the most surreal period of his life.

I catch up to Stu recently, as he’s lounging in his recording studio, where he airs his long-running Sunday Night Stu web show; he’s preparing to go live on stickcam.com with an all-day pool party featuring B-list celebrity drop-by’s and three fully garbed lucha libre wresters in the Jacuzzi. One of those masked luchadores will ultimately break the Jacuzzi after he inserts a beer bottle into the motor—but you didn’t read that from me. Meanwhile, a white retriever is running around with those silly dog cones fastened to his neck, and some guy named Clarence Obama convinces me and a random selection of natural blondes that he is related to the President. Welcome to Stu’s world.

I didn’t start out thinking I was gonna be some rapper, I just fell into it. I just always loved music. It’s about how I feel. That’s why a lot of is funny...

This absurd setting serves the backdrop for his record’s release party. The Return of the Stone Movement, is a mash of funky, underground hip-hop, indie-rock and even dance tracks, with Stu’s hyper-chesty vocals sewn in throughout. The album’s first single, “Super Bird” re-introduces the one and only “Stu Stone on the microphone… this time I’m going solo, no more Chewbacca.” In many ways, it’s a concept album about his life, the theme being he’s back. While you probably haven’t heard much about that, this album is a pleasantly fine-tuned production worth some attention because, apart from anything else, it’s straight-from-the-heart.

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“Any attention would be nice, actually. You know how many albums I’ve sold so far? Nine,” Stu says, lamenting the austerity in sales of his new album as he checks his I-Tunes figures on a laptop. To be fair the release party had not started when he read off those figures. Those were presales. But that’s Stu. He airs his life out like a sandy bed sheet the morning after you bring home a beach-bunny babe.

Stu was born Stuart Eisenstein, a short, lovable Jewish guy. He’s also Canadian, which makes him really lovable. But his biggest flaw, and creative inspiration, is the fact he falls in love with girls who end up tearing out his heart and stabbing it ten times with a rusty screwdriver (because he’s a huge Wu-Tang fan). But Stu is no proverbial victim. He can also be a dick, like when he portrays an uppity manager in the pro wrestling league NWA’s telecasts. The kids love to boo him. They hold up homemade signs that read “Stu Stone Sucks!” That’s when he does mean things like rip the signs up in their faces.

I don’t rap about guns, or yachts, cause I don’t go on boats. I make music about me and my life.

Pro wrestling, WTF?! The point is, Stu is one of those go-getters who believes “making it” is a vague term that means almost anything. It’s part of his make-up. So he tries almost anything, like juggling the whole pro wrestling manager shtick, an acting career, and his TSM Radio podcast, the longest running in the history of the word. But at the end of his cluttered days, Stu is truly about music. Funky, groovy, typically hip-hop music.

Stu’s life became worth rapping about when he came to Hollywood from Toronto. He was an 18 year-old actor with a promising future. A string of supporting film and television gigs, including his voiceover work as “Brainchild” on the animated series The Tick and his seminal role as “Ronald” in the cult favorite Donnie Darko, secured him a green card. Acting paid the rent at the Oakwood Apartments, a hip complex in the Valley known for its large population of transient young actors and rising hip-hop artists.

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To this day I don’t even know where the golf club came from...

Rodney Jerkins and a couple Wu Tang Clan members would hang out in the courtyard regularly. On any night someone the likes of Old Dirty Bastard would stop by to hang. These guys would be freestyling in the middle of the commons till late night. Fearless (or maybe naïve) to the notion that he didn‘t belong, Stu stepped into these circles, throwing down snarky, bratty, hilarious rhymes. He quickly became an Oakwoods Apartments favorite. Jerkins tagged him with the moniker “Stu the Jew.” It stuck.

“I didn’t start out thinking I was gonna be some rapper, I just fell into it. I just always loved music. It’s about how I feel. That’s why a lot of is funny, but some of it is serious, cause now I’ve gone through serious shit,” Stu says. “I don’t rap about guns, or yachts, cause I don’t go on boats. I make music about me and my life.”

The moment that Stu the MC was introduced to the public, came during the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Donnie Darko. Midway through the screening the projector breaks. Minutes of silence begin to suck out the energy from the audience. Stu springs into action. What begins as an impromptu Q&A session about the movie ends with about 20-minutes of Stu straight riffing rhymes and beatboxing. The audience goes crazy.

Once the projector was fixed, the film was screened and everyone walked out feeling really good about the eventual cult hit Donnie Darko. Maybe saying that Stu’s showcase at the screening had anything to do with the acclaim Donnie Darko would subsequently receive goes too far, but it’s not too much to conclude that in that moment Stu found his true calling. He was destined to become a hip-hop star even if he looked nothing like what society deemed to be rap appropriate.

Soon, Stu was being invited to recording studios to work with the DJ Lethal and Young Lord of Bad Boy Records. They wanted to present Stu as the next Beastie Boys-type, slightly off-kilter rap act. He was writing for other people, but it wasn’t long before Stu put together The Stone Movement, a funkdafied jam band with him at the helm. They were kind of like The Roots but with the sauciness of Blowfly and the lyrical attitude of Mike D in Paul’s Boutique. Stu’s irreverent on-stage persona struck a chord with all the bratty, young peeps rollicking up and down The Sunset Strip. They put out a well-received underground tunes “Whiteboy” and would routinely sell out the Roxy and the Whisky A GoGo. But then one of the guys from the band slept with Stu’s girlfriend. And that was that.

Out of a crisis, there came opportunity, only to lead to another crisis. In the process of developing and then blowing up his band, Stu made an important fan. Among the people at The Stone Movement’s first shows, was Jamie Kennedy. Stu’s stint as Jamie’s partner in rhyme began one seemingly innocuous night. Stu says he was on the phone with Jamie. Stu’s girlfriend was sitting beside him. At some point in the conversation Jamie hollered at Stu about heading out that night with some chicks he met. Stu replied “Sure.” But according to Stu, his girlfriend was able to hear everything. She then allegedly took out a golf club and started swinging at his head.

We were recording next to a porn production company. Saget came in to record his part. He was like ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ But we knew we had something.

“To this day I don’t even know where the golf club came from,” Stu says, “Then I found myself in the parking lot of a CVS, calling Jamie and telling him what happened. I had no place to stay. And I guess he felt bad so he let me stay in his guest house.”

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The proverbial stay at a celebrity’s guesthouse worked out great for Stu. Jamie had just finished Malibu’s Most Wanted, the comedy based on his white rapper persona “B Rad.” He wanted to record a rap record as the character. He got Stu involved to write rhymes and help produce beats. Stu found himself in the studio writing Jamie rhymes. But when he was called upon to deliver a few hooks Jamie couldn’t pull off, the act became a duo. Those sessions resulted in “Rolling with Bob Saget.”

“We hung out with Bob Saget one night and Jamie and I said we gotta do a song on him. We were recording next to a porn production company. Saget came in to record his part. He was like ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ But we knew we had something.”

“Rolling With Bob Saget” changed everything when it was released on Myspace. It helped Saget’s comeback for one thing. But it also turned into a mega viral monsterpiece for Jamie and Stu’s rap act. On the heels of that tracks success, the duo sought out to get a record deal. What they got was a TV show.

“Jamie had done Son of the Mask and he was looking to reinvent himself. He’s like, ‘let’s do a whole record.’ But no one would sign us. Then we went to MTV. We showed MTV the track and how we were trying to get a record deal,” Stu recounts. “MTV calls out of nowhere months later and said they wanted to do a pilot about us trying to get the music industry to take us seriously and give us a deal.”

They eventually did get a record deal. Blowin’ Up, the album, was released on Warner Bros. records. It went gold. But rather than build on their rap act, Jamie and Stu did like their album’s name and blew up. The ill received episode of their performance at the Three 6 Mafia concert resulted in a politically correct backlash too difficult to resolve in the short term. The truth is, their humor was ahead of its time, and probably still is.

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“We got into a lot of trouble for something Robert Downey Jr. did a year later and got nominated for an Oscar for it. Anyway, Jamie’s people said, enough with the rapping, go act,” Stu says. In the years since the break up, Stu has gone on to re-incarnate himself as one of the web’s most successful podcasters. Sunday Night Stu and his TSM Radio podcast regularly pull in six-figure viewers a week. But Stu never lost the itch for making music. And this time he wants to make his music personal, and authentic. He knows better now.

The Return of the Stone Movement, released independently by Stu, is an eclectic musical journey that surprises listeners throughout. You expect Stu to deliver on the rap, but his club track “Phake the Funk” with Christopher Lawrence is a straight-up four-to-the-floor butt shaker that will crank up any dancefloor. There’s also the funny dance tracks like “Save the Gingers (Red-Headed Woman)” a hilarious synth-pop, electro track that celebrates the Save the Ginger movement. It features lyrics like, “Red-head woman, let’s get it on, before the worldwide ginger population is gone!”

The common denominator in Stu’s songs is his soulful, playful, twangy MCing. It goes fast and hard on hip-hop tracks like “Wassupwidit" (Featuring Young Church and Nic Nac) and the reeferiffic “Stu Stoned.” He can also go all frustrated romantic, hipster, rocker on us during funky jams that serve as tell-alls and tell-offs to his heartbreaking exes, including “I’d Like to Know” and “Ordinary Girl.” Whatever song it is, you can rest assured it takes you deep into Stu’s soul. And he believes that alone is what separates this project from anything else he’s ever done.

“That’s why they booed us at the Three 6 Mafia concert. Cuase we were faking. We weren’t being true to ourselves. This album is the most important thing I’ve ever done. It’s all me. I don’t have Jamie to fall back on. I don’t have a band or a major label to fall back on. It’s just me.” Stu says, as he takes out a ten-dollar bill and hands it to me, “Now go download it. Here I’ll give you the ten bucks. Go download it on I-Tunes.”

PS: Stu is not dating anyone right now. So whoever wants to break his heart next, you can go ahead and hit him up on Twitter. Buy the album.

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