Pressure Drop

  • Scott C
  • Montreal Mirror
  • April 11, 2002

Never let anyone tell you that the world of underground hip hop isn't ripe with its share of copycats, clones and unimaginative producers. Even the world of independent rap isn't safe from people who skimp on just about everything so they can try to get a name out there. One name, though, that has been surfacing again and again on the lips of dedicated heads, and whose unique style of production has brought him comparisons to the holy trinity (Pete Rock, Premier and Large Professor), is L.A.'s Madlib.

Born Otis Jackson Jr., Madlib was discovered by Peanut Butter Wolf and quickly signed to Stones Throw Records, doing double duty as a producer and an MC. The formation of Lootpack soon followed, with several now classic singles and their debut LP, The Antidote. Next came the creation of his bugged-out, high-pitched alter ego Quasimoto, whose album The Unseen brought even more attention to the growing production arsenal that Madlib had in store.

Perhaps the latest and greatest acclaim to be thrown his way came upon the release of his Yesterdays New Quintet project, released on Stones Throw last year. It was here that listeners got a chance to delve into the Madlib's love of jazz and his interpretation of the artform that shapes the backbone of many of his productions. Even more amazing is that this lush instrumental banger featured Madlib playing everything from the drums to the Fender Rhodes keyboard, while naturally blessing the tracks with his signature drum programming. With all sorts of doors opening up to him these days, it's no surprise that he's busy. The Mirror got in touch with Madlib while he was on the road with Lootpack, in anticipation of their set at the launch of the Up North Trip anthology CD.

Mirror: Who are some of the people that have approached you for remixes and collaborations?
Madlib: It started with people like Zion I and J-88, but lately I've been doing appearances and remixes all over the board. I rapped with Quasimoto on the Beatless album, and on a Trevor Jackson remix. Oh, and I'm on a King Britt song that's coming out in a little while. Then, because of my YNQ stuff, I did remixes for Bilal and Zero 7. I also did remixes for people like RES, Glenn Lewis and Jill Scott, but I really don't know if they'll ever come out. And on the hip hop tip, man, I've been working with a lot of folks. I'm hooking up A-Trak's group Obscure Disorder with one of my newer beats.

M: I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you're a big fan of Kaidi Tatham from Bugz in the Attic. You guys share an ability to play all sorts of instruments, but is that whole West London nu-jazz scene something that you're into?
ML: That shit is real funky. Like that one Afronaught track, “Transcend Me.” I recognized those drums—Weather Report. I'd used them too. It's a real bugged-out music, but dope. All chopped up. A lot of people who are into that scene have been coming up to me and telling me that they dig YNQ. That's dope too. I just did a remix for my man DJ Rells, he's on some nu-jazz shit. Hooked him up lovely, you gotta peep for his 12.”

M: Is Lootpack ready to put out some new stuff? It's been a while and you know people are hungry.
ML: We're on a little break right now. Wildchild is working on his solo album, DJ Romes is making his battle records and spinning out, and I'm doing YNQ, Quas and some other shit like that.

M: On scales of one to 10, what would you rate yourself as a producer, as a DJ and as an MC, and why?
ML: Well, I was a DJ first, and that's how I got into all of this. I'm a wild DJ, though. I don't necessarily do things with the audience in mind! I go astro-travelling. So I might give myself a five as a DJ. As a producer, I'm better, but I'm not sure how to rate myself, or who to compare myself to. I like rapping the least, so I guess I'd have to put that aspect of my musical character below the DJing.

M: When you do Quasimoto tracks live, how does that work if you're supposed to be rapping both your verses and his?
ML: I don't really do Quas songs live. Every once in a while, we'll bust a cut from the album that doesn't have Quas featured too prominently. He's a hard guy to match! I don't know if you saw it on the Stones Throw web site, but there's been an imposter going around acting like Quas at shows. Not me, though!

M: Lastly, what records are you digging for right now that you're having a hard time tracking down?
ML: When I go buy records—you can ask anyone in my crew—I just buy some shit that looks ill. I don't even listen to that shit when I'm out there buying it. I like to surprise myself when I get home. But I'm always looking for the classic records I'm missing, some shit on Black Jazz, Sun Ra and all that. I remember Montreal, I was up there with Breakestra when their album came out. I went digging with A-Trak, he took me to some tight spots.

I smell homegrown! Madlib will have a chance to revisit those spots this weekend, as he and Lootpack's Wildchild and DJ Romes roll into town to headline, oddly, the launch of a purely Canuck hip hop comp.