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
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
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
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
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.