November 10, 2012
Madlib the Beat Konducta, WLIB: King Of The Wigflip (September 30, 2008)
What better metaphor for the ever-prolific Madlib – whose 2008 resume includes Erykah Badu and Guilty Simpson — than WLIB AM, a 24-hour radio station? As the self-proclaimed King Of The Wigflip, the Los Angeles producer runs through twenty-four tracks, using his excellent taste in disco, doo-wop and scratchy funk to craft oddball breaks and loops. However, inconsistent performances from Madlib’s crew, from Prince Po (who adds ice-cold flows to “The Thang-Thang”) to MED (whose boorish rhymes saddle “The Ox (805)”), keep this hour-long jam session from achieving transcendence. Other guests include Murs (“Ratrace”), Defari (“Gamble On Ya Boy”), Georgia Anne Muldrow (“The Plan Pt. 1″), and Guilty Simpson (“Blow The Horns On ‘Em”). BBE Music.
April 14, 2012
Madlib, Madlib Medicine Show No. 1: Before the Verdict (January 2010)
Late last year, Stones Throw Records announced that it would release a full-length album of tunes by its veritable resident producer, Madlib, in 2010 … every month. Dubbed Madlib Medicine Show, the 12-part series sounds like a rap nerd fantasy. The first installment, No. 1: Before the Verdict, is particularly pointed in its message of commerce as a soul-destroying, mind-blowing shit-stem. The cover depicts a charred one-dollar bill (with a weed leaf embedded in a corner), an industrial plant spewing toxic waste, and the World Trade Center being bombed by an airplane. The interior features photos of strangely voodoo-fied Africans — one has a hand protruding from her mouth — and the cryptic message: “There were only three witnesses. Two are dead. The other isn’t talking.” Before the Verdict’s 17 tracks consist of remixes of Guilty Simpson’s 2007 album Ode to the Ghetto, and a few previews of a forthcoming collaboration tentatively titled OJ Simpson. Guilty is a decent if ornery thug rapper, but he’s clearly no match for Madlib’s symphony of 70s soul “rapps,” funky howls, vinyl hiss, DJ cuts, burps and farts, pungent jokes culled from 60s comedy albums (Redd Foxx and Millie Jackson!) and police scanner snippets. The Detroit rapper’s litanies about “Gettin’ Bitches” and “Robbery” are vocal anchors drowned by the Madlib Invazion’s furiously funky creativity. Remember when that Quasimoto album intoned at the very beginning, “Welcome to violence”? These days, Madlib doesn’t just promise it. In rave terms, he has entered his hardcore phase. No longer positive and consciousness-expanding, the blessed weed smoke is fuel for a crank personality. The transformation is compelling, hilarious and frightening. As the rap world’s version of “reality” narrows into a handful of masculine fantasies, Madlib has become the era’s pamphleteer, printing out screaming headlines like a crazed prophet of doom. Madlib Invazion, with distribution by Stones Throw Records.
March 11, 2012
Madlib, Beat Konducta Vol 3-4: India (August 28, 2007)
On volumes 3 and 4 of his ongoing “Beat Konducta” instrumental album series, Madlib applies his familiar looping techniques to the world of Bollywood soundtracks. The problem isn’t necessarily with the source material, a wellspring of ideas ever since Mike Ladd and Dan the Automator began sampling it in the late 90s. But Madlib’s techniques seem less sure than usual. Many of the instrumentals, bite-size cuts that often last between 1-3 minutes, roll along aimlessly in loops. They don’t sound as tightly composed as his best material. This is a compilation of two vinyl-only records. Stones Throw Records.
March 8, 2012
Percee P, Perseverance: The Remix (January 2008)
Perseverance: The Remix revisits Percee P and Madlib’s collaborative album from last year. Ostensibly a collection of remixes, it sounds completely different, and in some ways superior, to the original. On Perseverance, Percee P couldn’t get out of overdrive; he attacked every track like it was “Let the Homicides Begin.” Meanwhile, Madlib struggled to fit his slow-to-midtempo tracks with Percee P’s unyielding fast raps. Here, Madlib’s remixes sounds more free and eclectic as he stuffs all sorts of random sounds into the mix. A restlessly inventive producer, he can make fantastic beats no matter who’s rapping on them. For “Legendary Lyricist,” he balances a slumping disco-funk beat from Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” with the hissing tone from Public Enemy’s “Public Enemy No. 1.” He switches the beat three times on “Ghetto Rhyme Story.” With Madlib in MVP mode, Perseverance: The Remix doesn’t really need Percee P’s predictable rhyme schemes. However, the tempo of the remixes prove a better complement for Percee P, who doesn’t sound as offbeat as before. With the vocals and music properly sequenced, it allows our attention to shift to Madlib’s tracks, whether it’s the flute-wafting melody of “No Time for Jokes” (with an on-point verse from Chali 2na) or the fuzzed-out percussive minimalism of “The Dirt and the Filth” with Aesop Rock. Meanwhile, Percee P spits at an effective but predictable pace. Even a nice ballad dedicated to H.E.R., “The Woman Behind Me,” feels like he’s anxious and jumpy, ready to let rip. “I’m staying faithful to my style, baby/Yours truly,” he says near its end. That’s all fine and good. But if he swtiched up his flow once in a while, he would demonstrate that he’s more than just a freestyle MC. Stones Throw Records.
March 8, 2012
Jackson Conti, Sujinho (April 2008)
Sujinho finds Madlib working with Ivan “Mamão” Conti, the Brazilian percussionist best known as the drummer for fusion rock band Azymuth. (Madlib’s real name is Otis Jackson, Jr., hence the name Jackson Conti.) The cover image, however, shows Madlib alone amidst the São Paulo coastline. It’s a sign that this is Madlib’s adventure, and it’s his perspective that we hear in the music. The 18 songs include a few originals alongside classic tunes from the mid 60s to the early 70s, the same territory he mines on his ongoing Yesterday’s New Quintet project. The only difference, it seems, is that instead of turning to fusion jazz and soul for inspiration, he’s looking to Tropicalia and bossa nova. Perhaps the freshest aspect of Sujinho is the loopy way Mamão and Madlib play together. Mamão seems to physically embody Madlib’s “broken,” slightly off-beat approach to rhythm. His percussion skitters all over the place, hopping around like a pogo, before miraculously falling back on the one. Meanwhile, Madlib demonstrates his usual good taste in melodies. “Praca da Republica,” one of the originals on the disc, pulses with electric bass before opening up with synth keyboard stabs and a (sampled?) saxophone solo. The two deliver a nice, airy rendition of Luiz Eça’s “Barumba,” and Edu Lobo’s “Upa Neguinho” jumps with an energetic guest vocal from Orquesta Imperial’s Thalma de Freitas. However, the overly familiar theme of Sujinho seems like the result of what Madlib imagines a classic Brazilian record should sound like than an original interpretation. In some ways, it resembles early Yesterday’s New Quintet material such as Angles without Edges, before he learned to absorb his fusion influences into a uniquely skewed perspective. Originally released on Netherlands label Kindred Spirits in April 2008, then released by Mochilla (which funded its production) for the U.S. market on June 17.
February 25, 2012
Jaylib, Champion Sound (October 7, 2003)
Jaylib promises to be a dream collaboration between two of the hottest producers in hip-hop, Jay Dee (formerly of Slum Village) and Madlib (Lootpack, Quasimoto). But the resulting Champion Sound is slightly more earthbound, as each tries to outdo the other with numbskull raps about players and hoes. It gets so bad that Jay Dee raps on the otherwise great track “The Mission,” “Now let me speak on these journalists/Only the ones who need to learn to listen/Before they criticize verses that burn kitchens.” Champion Sound’s appeal, then, lies in the music itself, minus the disposable rhymes. On paper, at least, the two producers each produce nearly half of the album’s 17 tracks and co-produce the intro, “L.A. to Detroit.” But the beats are surprisingly consistent, and every song utilizes Jay Dee’s infamously hard drums and snares to bolster Madlib’s notoriously psychedelic samples. The combination leads to strong tracks like the dance floor bound “Raw Shit” with Talib Kweli; “The Exclusive,” a pairing with legendary rapper Percee P, who brings some much-needed lyrical aggression; and “No Games,” a bouncy panoply of Seventies era synth riffs. Champion Sound is a fun party album that’s difficult to take seriously. Stones Throw.
February 25, 2012
Yesterdays New Quintet, Stevie (2002)
Yesterdays New Quintet’s Stevie originally began life in late 2002 as a promo-only CD manufactured by Triple Five Soul, given out through its Website, and occasionally sold during Stones Throw showcases. Its limited availability turned it into a collector’s item, fetching upwards of three figures on EBay, which eventually convinced Stones Throw to press it up for commercial release. (The gambit worked, and the original version of Stevie is now worth the price of a used CD.) The self-proclaimed Loop Digga’s stylistic quirk with this recording is replicating early Seventies performers such as Ronnie Foster and Charles Earland, who turned popular standards (in this case, the Stevie Wonder catalog) into mellifluous instrumental escapades that often teetered between brightly-rendered soul-jazz and nondescript muzak. Not surprisingly, Yesterdays New Quintet can be just as erratic, though Stevie is much more consistent than its predecessor, 2001’s Angles Without Edges. Part of its charm is in hearing Madlib add new arrangements — and life — to classics such as “Superstition,” which he slows down to a grinding halt while adding shakers, and “I Am Singing,” which he laces with tasty rim shots.