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The Essential… Madlib

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  • Mr Beatnick's authoritative top 10, ranging from Madvillain to entire LPs of jazz and broken beat.
  • published
    2 Apr 2012
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01: LOOTPACK
SOUNDPIECES: DA ANTIDOTE
(STONES THROW, 1999)

Lootpack were Oxnard’s answer to DITC, an outfit comprising Wildchild, DJ Romes, and Madlib, with fringe members including Madlib’s younger brother Oh No, their friend MED, and guest appearances from old pals The Alkaholiks (whom Madlib had guest produced for throughout the mid to late nineties), Defari and Declaime a.k.a Dudley Perkins. The album is as raw as the hand drawn cover it comes in; battle rhymes overcrunchy SP1200 beats.

Whilst not comparable to Madlib’s later, more sophisticated work, it definitely has its charms and moments, not least the joyfully rhetorical ‘Questions’, the brilliant ‘New Year’s Resolution’, the obligatory posse cut ‘Episodes’ and the mission statement ‘Cratediggin’. “Diggin in these crates for a fat remix, even if it sounds wrong to thee” drawls Madlib – a glimpse of the philosophy that would drive his oeuvres to come.


02: KAZI
‘DOWN FOR THE KAZ’

(STONES THROW, 2000)

Kazi was another Oxnard sparring partner of Madlib’s, who also appeared on the Soundpieces LP and had a relatively slept-on career, recording only on other indie hip-hop labels from this moment on. It’s a shame the future didn’t pan out differently for Kaz, since this debut EP was sublime – fantastic rhymes, backed by a number of Madlib’s greatest beats. If there’s one track to skip straight to here, it’s ‘A.V.E.R.A.G.E’, a b-boy anthem of the highest order that always got heads nodding at jams of the era. Perhaps my favourite bad kid beat ever, ‘A.V.E.R.A.G.E.’ demonstrates Madlib’s total mastery of the SP1200, the cracking drums and jazz vocal adlibs “so.. i…” followed by that eponymous string swoop are engrained in the memory of all old school ‘Lib fans.


03: QUASIMOTO
THE UNSEEN
(STONES THROW, 2000)

It’s unbelievable to think Lord Quas is now a decade old. For the unacquainted, Quasimoto is Madlib’s helium voiced alter ego, and like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he embodies the darker, manic and crazed side of Madlib’s personality – a weed smoking, brick throwing, jazz lovin’, astro-travelling misogynist who is always labelled as a bad character, no matter what he does.

The Unseen is a patchwork quilt stitched together from the poetry of Melvin Van Peebles, the greatest breaks in rap history, the personality and voice of Sir Nose D’Void of funk and the astro-mythology of Sun Ra. It’s both hilarious and deeply brooding by turns, with Quas tackling the subject of racist police on ‘Low Class Conspiracy’ as easily as he sings the praises of being ever-blazed with fat pockets on ‘Green Power’. A rap album so unique and entertaining it’s impossible to tire of it, and to crown it all, some of the finest Madlib beats in history, his most visionary and groundbreaking work, recorded on mushrooms and mixed entirely on a Tascam cassette tape multi-track.

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