Tight Lipped

Tight Lipped

  • Jon Aziri
  • Wax Poetics
  • January 20, 2002

"I got CDs in my crates like crack in my pocket. Yeah right, neither of the above."
-Lootpack, "Crate Diggin"

Some people have musical greatness thrust upon them, some are born into it. Otis Jackson Jr.-aka Madlib-has hip-hop embedded into his DNA. His father was an accomplished R&B session musician who played with the likes of David Axelrod and H.B. Barnum. His uncle is Jon Faddis, legendary trumpeter who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Bob James among others. Growing up, Jackson Jr. was astutely aware of his family's musical legacy. He was obsessed with jazz, hip-hop, and collecting records. These obsessions have worked their way into sorne of his songs such as Quasimoto's "Jazz Cats, Pt. 1" and "Return of the Loop Digga," a hilariously accurate re-telling of Madlib's run-in with a less-than-knowledgeable record store clerk.

After getting spotted by Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib was signed to Stones Throw Records. No one Could have anticipated the quantity or quality ofwork that followed. Madlib became the leader of the Loorpack and put out a solo project as his alter-ego Quasimoto, a helium-voiced rapper that Jackson created on a whim and later developed into a full-length album. As if that wasn't enough, he is also the sole member of the new Jazz experiment, Yesterdays New Quintet, which has released a crateload of recordings as of late.

Madlib may have been born into Musical greatness, but he also worked his ass off to get where he is. A self-admitted workaholic, Madlib has been known to lock himself in his studio for days at a time. During a rare break between sessions, he took some time to talk about his true loves: hip-hop, crate digging, and jazz.

Wax Poetics: When did you start getting into hip-hop?
Madlib: In the fourth grade. Breakdancing and stuff Got 1 to it from then and started buy records.

When did you start making beats?
Around '89, 1 got serious with it. I was always playing around. I started DJing, then I started making beats, then I emceed.

Of the three-Djing, producing, emceeing-which do you prefer?
I prefer producing. Believe that. I don't even like to rap too much.

What's your approach to producing?
I just try to keep it simple. Basic beat, emcee, and a DJ, you know. I can get wild with it, but right now I'm on some simple-type shit.

What other producers out there inspire you?
Of course, Primo. Jay Dee, Soul Brother #1 Pete Rock, DJ Muggs. From the old days I like David Axelrod, Eddie Bo. That's how I want my stuffto be. That old sound. This jazz album I'm working on is like some old shit.

Have you been in a situation where you used a sample and somebody else uses it six months later?
All the time. That's why I'm always trying to crea e new stuff all the time. It's all good. We're all us in 9 loops, somebody else is bound to have it. I just try to do it in my way.

You're heavily into crate digging. You even produced a song with Lootpack about it. How many records do you have?
Shit, I don't even know. A Couple of rooms full.

Did it start out as a hobby?
Yeah. I just liked music so I started collecting old Jarecords and soul. I wasn't buying too much hip-hop. I used to steal records from universities. I didn't have a lot of money back in the day, I'd get records any way I could. 'Cause I was a true digger, trying to get all that stufffor my collection.

(This is an excerpt from Wax Poetics, Winter 2002.)