In late’1999, when they were in the studio working on Voodoo, Jay Dee had D’Angelo and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson check out Lootpack’s 1999 album Soundpieces: Do Antidote!, featuring producer/MC Madlib. The three veterans obsessed about its virtues for days. “Madlib is my hero,” says ?uestlove. “He’s what’s right about hip hop. He can make whole compositions with 12 seconds of sampling time. It’s like having a sugar packet, maybe one egg, and a little bit of flour, and making a delicious cake.” On his luminous solo debut, Angles Without Edges, Madlib, 28, takes his musical philosophy into his own hands. “A lot of people call jazz dead,” he says of the project. “But if you bring it in a hip hop form, maybe some young cats who never listen to that stuff will peep it.” To supplement his trademark SP-1200 sampler, Madlib creates a fictional fivesome called Yesterday’s New Quintet, and plays all the instruments on Angles himself. The eccentricities of the artist born Otis Jackson Jr. in Oxnard, Calif., go beyond his multiple musical personalities. His idea of a fun afternoon is nibbling on Hawaiian magic mushrooms and then visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. Today, Madlib is staring bewilderedly into tanks populated by jellyfish, octopuses, and sea anemones. “That’s why I don’t go in the ocean,” he says.
Instead, the workaholic finds his own buried treasure in jazz and soul records procured from family elders. He then cranks out unpolished but brilliant production for the Lootpack and other underground luminaries. Much of Madlib’s music-he makes an album’s worth every three days or so-is created solely for the blunt-fueled enjoyment of himself and his crew. One of those not intended-to-be-released projects, Quasimoto’s The Unseen, dropped in 2000. The underground sensation is piloted by an unidentified furry monster with a voice that sounds like Q-Tip on helium.
“A lot of people ain’t gonna feel my music for at least 10 years, ’cause they’re used to what the radio plays,” Madlib says while watching giant spider crabs snap their claws at each other. With friends in high places, he’ll definitely be able to keep his head above water.