Weird Music Wednesdays #4: Madlib’s mad, mad world

A few days ago, “Cocaine Piñata” — the collaborative effort by beat-auteur Madlib (also known as Otis Jackson, Jr.) and hard-boiled gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs — was finally released, and, in my opinion, marks one of the best hip-hop records in a very long time. “Piñata” is unrivaled in its sheer production value and is honed down to a sharp sonic edge which doesn’t pull punches on a single track.

While the album deserves its own celebratory piece, I’d like to focus more on the previous output of one of the men responsible for the album’s success: Madlib.

Madlib is a legend. For a man who crafts his music almost entirely from fragments of other tracks, he has created a sonic fingerprint for himself. His music is usually given away by shuffling, off-kilter drum rhythms, warm, cohesive mixing and idiosyncratic and creatively manipulated vintage samples.

Madlib’s sound, unrivaled in hip-hop production, set the scene for many current artists. In 1999, Madlib recorded “Soundpieces: Da Antidote,” a collection of quality boom-bap beats and lyrically solid raps by Wildchild. Madlib then moved in the opposite direction, recording the trippy, spaced-out album “The Unseen,” an unhinged psychedelic journey deep into Madlib’s mind and his unending crates of vinyl. He teamed up with the equally legendary beat-smith J Dilla in 2003 on “Champion Sound,” where producers took turns rapping over each other’s beats, then coming together with cryptic rapper MF DOOM in 2004 to produce the classic “Madvillainy” — a must-have for anyone who considers himself a fan of good music.

But Madlib’s output shouldn’t just be reduced to the beat’s he’s made for others to rap over. He’s also put out an number of beat tapes, instrumental albums and singles definitely worth checking out.

His Beat Konducta and Medicine Show series found him travelling the globe through vinyl — even pushing out entire beat-tapes sampling Bollywood music, film scores, African folk music, Brazilian music and more. ““Shades of Blue,”“: a chilled-out instrumental jazz-hop album, uses high-quality samples given to him by notable jazz label Blue Note. Most recently, Madlib has collected rock ‘n’ roll and krautrock samples and made beats for his Rock Konducta series — also worth checking out.

Madlib doesn’t stop, with a repertoire encompassing an insurmountable mountain of weird and wonderful music. My suggestion is this: if you happen to have a few hundred hours to spare, start digging around in Madlib’s discography yourself. You’re guaranteed to find something interesting and extraordinary.

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