Madlib’s first piece of beatmaking equipment was the Casio SK1. “I got my first little sampler. Trying to make little beats speed it up real last beats come out all tore up I last kept doing it, looking for records. I was always lust with music or by myself, or with girls or something, trying to make some other shit.” Madlib sites his early influences as Public Enemy, Ultramagnetic MCs, 45 King, and Flavor Unit From the West, his list includes DJ Pooh, Dre, Muggs, Slip, Broadway, Peanut Butter Wolf, and DJ Quik.
Although Madlib Wildchild and DJ Romes didn’t officially form Lootpack until high school, the group has known each other for practically their entire lives. “We’ve been homies since 4th, 5th grade, says Madlib. I met Romeo and Jack trying to pop look and break. We lust got together and knew about this one radio station in Santa Barbara, KCSB, that played hiphop. We used to always look towards that as far as knowing what’s out. We all like the same type of music so we lust started hanging out. We started trying to do music.”
The up and comers from the ‘Ox’ caught their first break after Wildchild slid Lootpack’s demo tape to King Tee of the Likwit Crew. “My man Jack met King Tee and Tash at a barbecue in L.A., right when we got out of high school, explains Madlib, “He had our first demo that we did all together. The fast real demo that we did. He gave if to King Tee and he liked all the beats on it and stuff. He was like, ‘the lyrics is coo, but I mainly like the beats.’ We asked for a track on his album and one of the beats was Mary Jane and from there we just did something with them cats ever since.” Madlib produced Mary Jane on The Alkaholik’s classic debut, 21 & Over and also contributed WLIX featuring Lootpack to The Liks follow up album Coast to Coast. “We all got the same music vibes,” says Madlib, “I lived with E-Swift for a few months, just hanging out like cousins and shit.”
Gaining some feedback and exposure from putting in work with the Likwit crew Lootpack was still unsuccessful in capturing the attention of a major label. As a result, Lootpack’s Ill Psyche Move EP was released independently in ’96, and funded by Madlib’s father, Otis Jackson Sr. “My pops decided to put a record out with us,” he states. “We tried to shop our demo, even when we were with The Liks we couldn’t really get a deaf. My pops was all like, ‘I’ll put you guys out.'”
Eventually linking with Peanut Butter Wolf and signing on with Stones Throw Records, Madlib’s reputation and enormous vault of material have come full circle during his time spent with the label. Whether it’s Lootpack, his high pitched alterego Quasimoto, Yesterdays New Quintet, or any of the other projects on his plate, Madlib continually evolves and proves to have few constraints with his music. “I don’t like my voice as a rapper,” he explains of how he developed the infamous Lord Quas, “I was tired of hearing my voice I wanted to do something different and no MCs was around I had a whole beat tape done and I wanted to try something different and that came out I make stuff all the time hats just for me If Wolf hears it some of the stuff might get out.” Madlib speaks just as modestly about the creative process behind his one-man, five member band Yesterdays New Quintet. “I’ve listened to music 24/7 since I was a kid, so it was really nothing new, he says. 1 just wanted to see if I could do it make some music that I want to hear and that’s what came up I was sampling a lot of Fender Rhodes and I was like, ‘man I wish I had a Fender Rhodes so I could make my own loops.’ I went to a music store and ended up getting one I didn’t think I was gonna make a record or nothing, I just wanted to learn how to play around with it, make some loops or something. I practiced all the time for about a year and then stared making records.”
With an onslaught of projects stated to be released in the next few months and throughout the year, Madlib’s versatility and catalog already exceeds what most producer/arrangers could hope to accomplish in a lifetime. The Beat Conductor continues to drop solid song after song, and album after album, and is showing no signs of lightening his workload in 2003. Collaborative offerings with MF Doom (MadVillain) and Jay Dee (Jaylib) are guaranteed to be some of the most anticipated releases of the year. “Wolf asked me what MCs I’d like to work with,” he says of initially building with Doom. “I didn’t even think we was gonna hook up I told Wolf I wanted to do a track with him and we lust connected. He was like, ‘yo we should do an album or something.’ I sent him some boats first and then he come out here and we brain stormed. He’s one of my favorite MCs to work with. Plus we kinda the same, smoke a lot of trees and sip a bit.” Madlib ended up connecting with Detroit’s most recognizable producer when Dilla placed a phone call to Peanut Butter Wolf and expressed interest in Lootpack’s Soundpieces LP. “He was telling Wolf he liked the album,” recalls Madlib We just started exchanging CDs.” The rest was history, and after contributing production to Jay’s never released MCA album, a lasting bond was established and eventually progressed into the Jaylib album. In addition to MadVillain and Jaylib, Madlib’s current fist of endeavors includes a remix LP for Blue Note, solo offerings for all the members of YNQ, a tribute to Stevie Wonder, a Gait MacDermot 45, and production on LPs for Wildchild and Medaphoar, just to name a few. He’s also laced West London dance artist DJ Rell and compiled tracks from reggae label Trojan Records for Blunted in the Bomb Shelter, continuing his relentless streak of credits.
Madlib makes a lot of music, I mean a lot. It’s safe to say the DJ, producer, and MC (in that order) has honed his skills, and might need to stay working 25 hours a day to maintain the pace that his career is moving. “If I’m really hyped to do something I can do most of an album in a day,” says Madlib. “If I’m real hyped to do it.”
Prepare yourself for another Madlib Invazion.