Monday, October 6, 2008

Never Go Pop

Madvillainy is one of the albums that really opened my eyes to how stale and unimaginative a lot of hip hop is. Now, that's not the point of the album, it's more of a side effect. The record is one of the strangest I've ever heard, in any genre. The beats still move, though, and the lyrics contain substance of a sort that I'm sorry to say is rare these days. It's a record that proves that it doesn't have to be the same old thing all the time in the genre of hip hop, even if that's what we're given most of the time.

Not only does this album have my favorite song of all time about getting high ("America's Most Blunted"), it also exposed me for the first time to two of my favorite artists of all time.
Madvillainy is the first and, up until now, only LP-length collaboration between producer Madlib and emcee MF Doom (he of the metal mask and Dr. Doom career motif). Since hearing Madvillainy, I've spent the better part of the last five years tracking down different Madlib projects, side and otherwise. There's his collection of albums of beats, released under the name Beat Konducta (Vol. 3-4, Beat Konducta in India, is particularly good). There's Quasimoto, Madlib's chipmunk-esque psychedelia project. And let's not forget Lootpack, Madlib's more straightforward hip hop group from the late 90's. This really just scratches the surface, and is to say nothing of all the production he does for other artists (Q-Tip and Erykah Badu released songs produced by Mad in the last year). Oh, and he finds time to run a label, Stones Throw, which can hook you up with almost all of this work.

Rumors have been swirling pretty much since Madvillainy came out of a followup collabo. Trying not to get my hopes up, I never really believed it. Doom and Madlib are both constantly dreaming up new, usually codenamed side projects (Doom's Dangerdoom with Dangermouse, or Mad's Jaylib with J. Dilla) to keep themselves busy. Plus, there's also what I'd call the "one album effect," where an album is so much more valuable for not having any others before or after it. Look at the Sex Pistols or Black Star.

Well, I still don't think a followup will ever arrive. But this summer Stones Throw released a sequel of sorts. Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remixes envisions Madvillainy as it would sound if it were produced by... uh... Madlib. Okay, fine, that doesn't make sense, but it doesn't need to. Some people have been calling this a fans-only release, and that's exactly what it comes across as: a small thank you token from Mad to all his loyal fans. This album isn't essential like the original Madvillainy, but it succeeds by being even more nutso than the original and reflecting just what Madlib is into these days. If you want to see if Madlib's production is up your alley, grab Madvillainy, a Quasimoto album (they're all great) or one of his mixtapes. But if you enjoy what Madlib puts out there already, do yourself a favor and grab what amounts to a concept mixtape . You can look at it as a cynical move to sell copies of a throwaway recording, but you'd to much better to see it as Madlib letting the fans in on a private project of his own. Let's hope this starts a trend.

I'll leave you with a classic vid from the original Madvillainy. If you don't want to hear more after this, I don't think you're reading the right blog. "All Caps":

1 comment:

anthony said...

Peanut Butter Wolf (not Madlib) runs Stones Throw. Also, I know this isn't a laundry-list of every Mad project ever, but I would also definitely recommend checking out his Mind Fusion series (more out-there) and the Yeserday's New Quintet catalogue (more jazz). Thanks Ben, good post.