Producing is a hallowed art form. The beat is Hip Hop’s life and soul, serving as a catalyst allowing an MC to reach the hearts and minds of their supporters. The yin to an MC’s lyrical yang, production is equally as important to rap as the rapper, although rarely recognized as such. On this day in Hip Hop history we celebrate the birth of a man who lived and breathed Hip Hop. Today in 1973, Otis Jackson Jr drew his first breath and Madlib was born.
Hailing from Oxnard, California, Madlib was born into a musical family. Both his parents, Otis Jackson Sr. and Dora Sinesca Faddis-Jackson have both seen success as recording artists, his uncle, Jon Faddis, is a famed jazz trumpet player, and his younger brother, Michael Jackson, is rapper Oh No.
As a producer, Madlib has had his hand in some of Hip Hop’s most critically acclaimed projects. His vast discography contains rap classics as well as volumes of beat left to stand alone as instrumental masterpieces. Over his 23 years in the game, Madlib has shaken things up by taking on a few different alter egos, all specializing in a different sound. In honor of his birthday, we have put together a meet & greet of sorts to introduce to those who don’t know to the many face that make up Madlib.
In 1992, Madlib, Wildchild, and DJ Romes came together to create underground Hip Hop group Lootpack. The trio released their first project, Ill Psyche Move EP, in 1996 under Otis Jackson Sr.’s record label Crate Digga’s Paradise. They quickly caught the attention of Stones Throw founder, Peanut Butter Wolf, who eventually talked the trio to signing with his label. The group went on to release two complete albums, Soundpieces: Da Antidote in 1999 and The Lost Tapes in 2004 and an array of singles and EPs.
As undoubtedly his most used alias, Madlib has released literally volumes of beats under this pseudonym. His popular album series, Beat Konducta is a 7-album-and-counting collection of instrumentals that have been rapped on as well as exclusives. Beginning in 2001 with Vol. 0 Earth Sounds, this series has produced some of Madlib’s highest selling solo work.
In 2004, Madlib stretched his wings and ventured into the realm of electronic music releasing Theme for a Broken Soul under the name DJ Rels. The project received mixed reviews from critics, some praising while calling the album monotonous and unimaginative. Nevertheless, this album was a large step out of Madlib’s comfort zone and should be celebrated as such.
The duo of Madlib and J Dilla is so prolific it’s almost unreal. The two teamed up in the early 2000’s to release one of Hip Hop’s greatest albums of the new millennium, Champion Sound, in 2003. With the two switching off between rapping and producing every other track, this album shows the growth of both artists as rapper/producers. This album was Madlib’s first duo collaboration, and was far from his last.
One year after the release of Champion Sound, Madlib this time teamed up with newest Stones Throw signee, MF DOOM. The two came together to release what has been hailed as one of the greatest collaborative albums of time, Madvillainy. Although the album only peaked at #179 on the Billboard 200, Hip Hop heads hold this project in very high regard. Following their debut, the duo went on to continuous drop bombs with surprise singles, the latest being “Avalanche & Victory Lap”. Both parties have sad that the world should also be on the look out for a second Madvillainy album to come out “as soon as DOOM finishes it” according to Madlib.
Yesterdays New Quintet
In 2001, Madlib took a break from Hip Hop production and began a Jazz based electronic quintet consisting of musicians played by known other than Madlib. Over the next few years, the quintet released a multitude of albums and continued to add more fictional component to the band. The amount of player became so vast that the band became known as Yesterday’s Universe. As time went on, a spin off group, Sound Direction, was created incorporating more musicians who this time did not come from the mind of Madlib.
Consisting of Madlib and drummer of Brazilian funk band Azymuth, Ivan Conti, Jackson Conti is a Latin Jazz/Brazilian Samba fusion band. In 2008, the duo released their sole album, Sujinho. The album was released twice, once in the Netherlands on a double LP and later in the United States. It is one of Madlib’s more rare collaborations, being that he went under his government name in it’s credits.
Last but not least is the cartoon, high pitched, MC alter ego, Quasimoto. First stepping on the scene in 1998 on Peanut Butter Wolf’s My Vinyl Weighs a Ton. A debut album was released in 2000 titled, The Unseen, which received praised in both the underground and mainstream. Lord Quas released two more album, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas and Yessir Whatever, which both have only more solidified Quasimoto’s place in Hip Hop history, independent of Madlib’s legacy. There is no word whetehr or not another Quas album will see the light of day so the public will just have to wait and see what Madlib has up his sleeve.
Madlib’s career is one of the most unique in Hip Hop, his boundless ability to create and collaborate has given us some of the most eclectic rap music in existence. Very rarely does an artist come around with the fortitude to produce as much work as Madlib. Hip Hop as a whole is forever in his debt for the hours of entertainment he has provided and his innovation he has brought to the genre. On behalf of everyone here at The Source Magazine and TheSource.com, Happy Bornday Madlib, may you continue to have a prosperous career and give the world volumes more of your heart and soul.