Madlib the Beat Konducta – ‘WLIB LAM: King of the Wigflip’

November 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, November 11, 2008.

Madlib the Beat Konducta
WLIB AM King of the Wigflip
(BBE/Inertia)

Since his early days in 90s Oxnard, California crew Lootpack, the absurdly prolific Otis Jackson Jr – the man better known as Madlib – has risen to become one of post-millennium hip-hop’s most significant, innovatory and influential producers.

The chief muse behind Peanut Butter Wolf’s iconoclastic Stones Throw imprint, he has plied his loose, crudely treated psyche and soul-riddled beats to some of the last decade’s signpost releases, and come to redefine the bounds of west coast rap in the process. His surrealist Madvillain collaboration with masked New Yorker MF Doom and mind-bending Jaylib alliance with the late great Detroit beat-smith J Dilla are considered two of modern hip-hop’s generation-defining records; his falsetto alter ego MC Quasimoto has garnered similarly high praise.

WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip
, Madlib’s third instalment in his Beat Konducta series, shifts directions from its previous episodes, largely bypassing the exotic, recontextualised soundtracks and scores that engendered Vol 1-2: Movie Scenes and Vol 3-4: India for more traditional hip-hop underlay. But that’s not to suggest that Madlib is traversing conventional territory here. Far from it.

Everything from WLIB AM’s grainy, crackle-riddled soul samples and funk-infused joints, to its divergent schedule of guest vocalists – think master MC Talib Kweli, Detroit underground icon Guilty Simpson, stoner soulstress Georgia Anne Muldrow, Prince Po, MED, Murs, Stacy Epps and old school west coaster Defari – instil this collection with a loose-limbed and persistently flavoursome downbeat sensibility. The churning, droning backdrop of ‘Heat’, the burbling bass line of ‘Disco Dance’ and low-key orchestral pulse and nimble Kweli verse of ‘What it Do’ set the mood to brilliant effect. MED chips in with a slick verse over the sinister, lurking synth ‘The Ox (805)’

But this isn’t just a cruiser. Madlib counters the loping grooves with plenty of rugged, lively cuts. ‘Guilty Simpson’ explodes over a battalion of brass and a hopelessly fat break on the aptly named ‘Blow the Horns on ‘em’ – all attitude and posture. “I’m so hot I need a fan / You’re so not you need a fan,” he spits. “Your beats are so wack you need a band.” Elsewhere, Defari crafts a tight verse over a classic, kinetic funk hook on ‘Gamble On Ya Boy’, while Prince Po rocks a zigzagging analogue organ sample on ‘The Thang-Thang’. The urgent, stabbing strings and break-beat bounce of ‘I Want it Back’, which sees Madlib tag-team with little his brother Oh-No, is another fine moment.

This won’t go down as a classic hip-hop release; typically the Beat Konducta records function as sprawling tasters rather than tightly focussed albums. That said, WLIB AM – which just happens to be the final record in label BBE’s wonderful Beat Generation series – is a fine and brilliantly unpredictable addition to Madlib’s hopelessly large catalogue. Like everything he touches, this record is filled with both fascinating weirdness and flecks of pure gold.

Dan Rule

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