Yoni Wolf

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Yoni Wolf
Yoni Wolf performing with Why? in Brussels in 2010
Background information
Birth name Jonathan Avram Wolf
Born (1979-04-30) April 30, 1979 (age 36)
Origin Berkeley, California
Cincinnati, Ohio
Genres Alternative hip hop, underground hip hop, indie rock
Years active 1997–present
Labels Anticon, Mush Records, Lex Records
Associated acts Why?, Greenthink, Clouddead, Reaching Quiet, Hymie's Basement, Miss Ohio's Nameless, Apogee
Website www.whywithaquestionmark.com/
Why? performing a live show at Cafe Bourbon Street in Columbus, Ohio in 2008
Yoni Wolf performing with Why? in Brussels in 2010

Jonathan Avram "Yoni" Wolf is an American alternative hip hop and indie rock musician and co-founder of the record label Anticon.[1]

From the mid-1990s until 2004 Yoni Wolf released music under the stage name Why?. In 2004 he transferred that name onto his newly founded band. Thereafter he has been credited for his solo work as Yoni Wolf.

Prior to the founding of the band Why? in 2004, Yoni Wolf had also been a member of numerous other groups, including Greenthink, Clouddead, Reaching Quiet and Hymie's Basement.


Jonathan "Yoni" Wolf was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Messianic Jewish parents.[2] Before his first year in high school, he discovered an old 4-track in his father's synagogue and began to experiment musically. His forays into rapping, drumming and poetry followed.

In 1997, while attending art school at the University of Cincinnati, Yoni Wolf met fellow student Adam Drucker, aka Doseone, at the semifinals of Scribble Jam. Along with Doseone, Mr. Dibbs and Josiah Wolf, he formed the live improvisational group Apogee. The partnership of Yoni Wolf and Doseone continued for many years under many guises.

In 1998 the duo released the album It's Not Easy Being... under the name Greenthink. In 1999, with an expansive roster of featured guests, they released the second Greenthink record Blindfold, after which they expanded to a trio with the addition of producer Odd Nosdam and adopted the name Clouddead. In the same year Yoni Wolf released his first solo album under the name Why?, entitled Part Time People Cage... or Part Time Key?.

Beginning in 2000, Clouddead released a series of six 10" vinyl singles on Mush Records. In 2001 these singles were compiled on CD and released as the group's self-titled debut album.

Following the release of his latest solo album Oaklandazulasylum in 2003, Yoni Wolf enlisted the help of his older brother Josiah on drums, Matt Meldon on guitar and Doug McDiarmid as a random task member. Yoni Wolf transferred that name onto his newly founded band. Thereafter he has been credited for his solo work as Yoni Wolf.

In 2005, Why? released their debut album Elephant Eyelash. The album deviated considerably from the sound of Yoni Wolf's prior solo work. The group toured much of 2005 in support of the album as a four-piece. However, by the time of their May 2006 tour with Islands, the group had become a three-piece, because Matt Meldon moved to an island off the coast of Seattle to live with his girlfriend.[3]

For their second album Alopecia, Why? asked their fans to contribute photographs of their palms for the album's artwork. They released "The Hollows" as the first single, with two different European and US versions, featuring remixes and covers by Boards of Canada, Xiu Xiu, Dntel, Half-handed Cloud, Dump and Islands. Alopecia was released in 2008 to very positive reviews.

In 2009, Why? released their third album Eskimo Snow. The ten songs on the album were recorded during the Alopecia sessions and are described by Yoni Wolf as "the least hip-hop out of anything I've ever been involved with."[4]

On June 27, 2012, the band announced via Stereogum that they would be releasing their new EP Sod in the Seed on August 13 on City Slang. In the same article they premiered the title track. The song is more upbeat than any of the tracks on Eskimo Snow and contains rapping, which had been absent on the previous album.[5]

The band released their fourth album, Mumps, Etc. on October 9, 2012.[6]

Wolf suffers from Crohn's disease and many of his lyrics describe his efforts to cope with the illness.[7] Yoni Wolf was featured on the August 12, 2013 episode of the That American Life podcast. [8]


Yoni Wolf has produced tracks for other MCs. He produced several tracks for fellow Anticon co-founder Pedestrian's album Volume One: UnIndian Songs in 2005. He also produced several tracks for Serengeti's album Family and Friends, as well as providing backup vocals, in 2011.[9]

Yoni Wolf has released many albums as a member of groups including Reaching Quiet, Hymie's Basement, Miss Ohio's Nameless and Object Beings. He has collaborated with Doseone, Odd Nosdam, Fog among others.

Selected discography[edit]

Main article: Yoni Wolf discography


Yoni Wolf

  • Part Time People Cage... or Part Time Key? (1999) (as Why?)
  • Oaklandazulasylum (2003) (as Why?)

Why? (Yoni Wolf with Josiah Wolf, Doug McDiarmid, et al.)

Clouddead (Yoni Wolf with Doseone & Odd Nosdam)

Greenthink (Yoni Wolf with Doseone)

  • It's Not Easy Being... (1998)
  • Blindfold (1999)

Other collaborations


  1. ^ Fortune, Drew (December 15, 2010). "Why?: Hip Hop’s Lyrical Transient". ALARM Magazine. 
  2. ^ Ben Ari, Gon (July 3, 2009). "Why Not". 7 Nights, Yedioth Ahronoth. 
  3. ^ http://www.southern.net/southern/news/?id=90
  4. ^ Tom Breihan (May 29, 2009). "WHY?'s Yoni Wolf Reveals New Album: Eskimo Snow". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ Goble, Corbin (June 27, 2012). "WHY? - "Sod in the Seed"". Stereogum. 
  6. ^ Battan, Carrie (July 30, 2012). "WHY? announce new album, Mumps, etc.". Pitchfork. 
  7. ^ Plasternack, Alex. "Just To Be Grounded: An Interview with Yoni Wolf". Vice. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  8. ^ http://www.thatamericanlife.com/ep5-james-and-the-giant-punch/
  9. ^ Zach Kelly (July 21, 2011). "Serengeti – Family and Friends". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 

External links[edit]