Thanks to artist egos, industry politics and record label red-tape, it’s taken years for most super-group / collaborative projects to get off the ground, some never even coming to fruition. While projects like Ice Cube & Dr. Dre’s “Helter Skelter” and the Golden State Project (Xzibit, Ras Kass, Saafir) never saw the light of day, others have failed miserably, thanks to having too many hands in the pot (The Firm) or just plain bad timing (Jay-Z & R. Kelly’s Best Of Both Worlds, ahem). While there has been the occasional successful collaborative venture on the major label front (Gorillaz), these types of projects have always worked much better on the indy scale, thanks to wider artistic freedom, deflated egos, and smaller Soundscan numbers. 2003 has been one of the richest years yet for these types of projects (3582 (Fat Jon & J. Rawls), Soul Position (RJD2 + Blueprint)), with the most anticipated of the bunch being Jaylib (Jay Dee & Madlib)’s Champion Sound, a one-time meeting of the minds between Madlib, who is best known for his work for Lootpack and Stones Throw, and Jay Dee, who’s held it down as both a solo artist and a member of Detroit’s Slum Village.
Interestingly enough, the ambidextrous team of Madlib and Jay Dilla didn’t take the Method Man & Redman approach to sharing this album - that being trading every other verse - but instead chose to rhyme over each other’s beats on every other track! While both producers are hailed as some of the best the underground has to offer, neither have been listed on anyone’s top ten lists for their mic chores, but their simplistic shit-talking rhymes propel this assortment of beats, regardless of the one-dimensional subject matter (weed, hoes, etc). The album kicks off the awesome “McNasty Filth”, as Jay Dilla and Frank N Dank get rowdy over one of Madlib’s more aggressive beats, proving that Madlib can still make live, party rockin’ beats, despite the more experimental route he’s been taking lately. However, even Madlib’s more experimental tracks on this album are livened up by Dilla’s commandeering mic presence. While Madlib is choosing stranger and stranger records to sample, (such as east Indian stuff that’s far from “Big Pimpin’” or Panjabi MC), the fusion works perfectly on tracks like “Champion Sound” and “Survival Test”. And the further against the grain Madlib’s beats go, the more fun this record becomes. Dilla’s rhymes become downright hypnotic on “Heavy” thanks to Madlib’s infectious bassline and echoed hook, while tracks like “No Games” and “The Mission” almost take an MF Doom-esque approach to sampling, letting the off-kilter loops run on their own (which we’ll probably hear more of on the upcoming MadVillain (Madlib + MF Doom) project).
Meanwhile, Madlib switches spots with Jay Dee on every other subsequent track on the album, as he, Quasimoto and a few other weird voices in his head add almost bugged out, surf-rock sensibilities to Dilla’s thumping beats. While more polished tracks like “The Red”, “Raw Shit” (feat. Talib Kweli) and “Starz” require Madlib to tighten his game lyrically, other times Madlib gets caught up his split personalities which disrupt his flow. Case in point are “Nowadayz” and “Strip Club”, where Madlib does the voice of the girl, himself, and Quasimoto, which frankly doesn’t come off well at all. But it’s not all bad, there’s something about the strange arrangement of “React” that excuses the overdone Lord Quas character, but at the same time, the overuse of this persona is hurting his sound in a RZA as Bobby Digital type of way.
This album won’t be for everyone, as it’s almost an experiment between Madlib and Jay Dee to see who can come up with the stranger tracks. But despite a minor gripe here and there, this album as a whole is one big musical collage of sounds that doesn’t compromise itself for anyone, yet still ends up being a dope, listenable piece of music. Madlib and Jay Dee come together with an Outkast-esque fusion, each bringing elements of their personality and style to table, creating a unified Champion Sound that can only be called Jaylib.
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