Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Crate Mass Experiment

[...] Madlib has become one of the most diverse and prolific artists in hiphop. He made his underground cross-genre breakthrough as his wayward, apocryphal alter-ego Quasimoto; and his other major projects include Beat Konducta's curated collections of MC tools; his one-man virtual jazz band Yesterday's New Quintet and its spin-offs, in which he contributes drums, keyboards, bass and vibraphone; and his collaborations with the late J Dilla (Jaylib) and MF Doom (Madvillain). Madlib's work traverses modern-day hiphop to an extent that few can claim, and his crate-digging has reached such depths as to make him a veritable crate in himself, providing others with scores of tracks to help construct their own tunes. Yet for all the success his workaholism has brought him, he is a reticent public figure.

"I hate standing in front of a crowd and having to show myself. I'm a background dude."


As with the American childhood word game that is the source of his name, Madlib slots recognisable sounds or phrases into new contexts. While any sample-based music can accomplish this, the level of love and knowledge that surrounds his work establishes some truly admirable credentials.

"You'll find something good in every type of music. [The music is] either good or it's bad, but you can find something. I've noticed that. You'll tell in years. I'm trying to do all types of music, to connect with everybody. Eskimos, everybody, you know what i'm saying? I know music can make people come together. Even aliens, probably come together with aliens on some music. So i look at my shows and i see all types of different races - i just know, that's the thing. I can communicate with everybody. "


"All the music i do, i have to like it. I wouldn't really care if nobody else liked it. I just have to feel it first. I love that people like it, though. I wouldn't really trip if nobody ever liked it, cause i'm doing it for my health first."


Just as [James] Brown churned out root funk lines, so Madlib in his Beat Konducta guise manufactures hiphop readymades for future generations of MCs and producers; he's a breaks conservationist and protector of hiphop's future, stockpiling natural resources of the music.

"I found that a lot of dudes write good lyrics over certain beats i do. So i try to put that out there for the world cause i know there are a lot of MCs out there, and off of one beat you can get a lot of ideas. [...] So i put it out there so they can write a good record first.

Madlib's musical generosity isn't always reciprocated. he has been sued for his use of samples by a number of artists he respects.

"I understand, 'cause they probably broke. [...] But then they ask for a little too much, they think we're Jay-Z or something. [...] I hope somebody samples me. Sample my shit. I ain't gonna sue you. Sample me, please! Make some good music. Make something i can listen to.

From 'The Crate Mass Experiment', The Wire issue 306, August 2009.

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