1 January, 2001@12:00 am
The phenomenon that is Madlib is at times a baffling one. The Lootpack’s introductory 12″, “Psyche Move” could have been any number of wax-plates from the burgeoning independent movement of the late-ish 90′s. While, for all intents and purposes, it was a cool record, the slab didn’t stand far beyond the majority of similar joints of the time. There was a bustling movement arising; anyone could fall to the wayside of one-hit wonderment (and many did). Taken (safely) under the guileful wing of the then Bay Area-based Stones Throw imprint (overseen by onetime prolific producer Peanut Butter Wolf turned executive-operator), The Lootpack, but more importantly, Madlib, a onetime faceless indie-producer would somewhat quickly and rather unknowingly be propelled into international hip-hop stardom.
Solid work with The Pack (“Whenimondamic”, “Likwit Fusion”) and constant in house production for crew Kazi, Medaphoar , Declaime , etc. have kept Mad on a sturdy platform with your average head, while the enigmatic and relatively intriguing alter-ego Quasimoto (“Come On Feet” et al) jutted him into popular regard as a seemed messiah of sorts behind the board. Which leads to the question (theoretically of course), had it been Various Blendz’ Friz B. or onetime ST affiliate Zest Da Smoker or even Architect for that matter, would responses be the same? Would they be able to churn out beats as rampantly as Madlib? To hold down a group, in-house production duties, remixes to boot, alternative solo endeavors, and now a quasi-Jazz album of original pieces? Has Madlib set a new precedent for innovation or is he merely the object and result of persistence and consistent releases since signing the dotted line? Genius or just a regular producer with a label-push as stalwart as blow from Thor? It’s all relative I suppose, regardless, Yesterday’s New Quintet is without question a pretty good album.
While there are definite moments; seeping through with flutes or keys, change-ups in the drums or a sublime riding of vibes, I wouldn’t call this a Jazz album. Elements of free-Jazz permeate, the engulfing “Julani” grasp emotion with impressive drum-programming and subtle key strokes; “Papa” flirts with Handcock-esque rhythms while “Little Girl” rolls sympathetically and warmly. Madlib creates interesting and impressive textures throughout that ride the railing of down-tempo like house to almost straight hip-hop beats. Tracks like “Uno Esta” and “Mestizo Eyes” (what’s da deal with the titles?) simmer similarly but lump with a bump that feels like an emcee is almost needing to be riding the beat. Arguably some of Angles Without Edges most blissful selections are “Paladium” and “Life’s Angles” (playing back-to-back), here Madlib feels most uncompromised; he’s hip-hop, jazz, free-formed lounge music all comfortably wrapped in one.
This is an innocent release, subdued and relaxing to listen to (ruggedly tranquil if you will). Madlib pulls it off, but undoubtedly he’s not the only one capable of making live-sounding programmed beats (Shawn J. Period , DJ Spinna & Thes One of People Under The Stairs among others have more than dabbled in similar fashion with all interestingly-individual outcomes). Wavering at times, his drums in spots prove almost too hip-hop for their own good. As a result lending this 19-tracker to soundscapes of the lounge/down-tempo fare, which in the end isn’t bad at all. Perhaps the full-scope of this release won’t be realized until after years of more Madlib works. He’s a young producer both in age and musical stylings that will surely go down in history for unfaltering effort, both in and outside the tangible hip-hop realm. Whether timelessness is his forte is debatable, YNQ unquestionably works in his favor though. This album has moments of beauty, a few flashes of banality and most of all the tastemaking combination ‘Lib and Stones Throw have crafted very calculatingly together. It’s an ‘invazion’, painless if not enjoyable, but an ‘invazion’ nonetheless.
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