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Madlib has come to be known as the ultimate jack-of-all trades. As one of hip-hop’s most prolific and critically acclaimed producers, he’s worked with a multitude of artists and has a style best described as abstract. He’s taken on many personas, ranging from the high-pitched Quasimoto to the virtual Jazz band Yesterday’s New Quintet. Spawned from this jazz collective is Madlib’s newest creation: Young Jazz Rebels. The opus Slave Riot is a journey into the abstract.

Slave Riot is a 100% jazz release. Listeners expecting to hear Madvillain or Jaylib will be in for a shock. Slave Riot takes a left turn and dips exclusively into the jazz paint bucket. The album begins with the familiar sound of static, which is described as an ode to the Young Jazz Rebels inspiration: independent and experimental jazz vinyl from the late 60s, 70s and 80s. The intro track; “Ancestors”, puts this inspiration on display. The “Legend of Mankind” is a full out tribal percussion track, where the listener can almost hear the palms as they beat leather with an infectious rhythm. “The Wind” is a very experimental track, as there’s not really rhythm or melody to it, but rather feels more like a collection of sounds. Slave Riot picks back up with “Forces Unseen”, a true jazz track with a flowing melody that actually takes the listener to a destination.

Slave Riot feels as though it features two different bands. The album is chocked full of experimental tracks like “On the Run from Mr. Charlie”, “Hate/Love” and “Primal Sound (The Moon”, where the various elements make it difficult to keep the listeners attention. Many tracks feature this experimental style, but the twin title tracks “Slave Riot Parts 1-3 before” and “Slave Riot Parts 4-6 after” are perfect examples of it.

To this critic, the fine points of the album occur when it follows an actual script. Tracks such as “The Sun” and “Theme from Illusion Suite” are enjoyable because they have direction and give the listener a path to follow. “Nappy Headed History” is a perfect example of this. The track grabs the listener’s attention immediately with an engrossing melodic bass line and is by far Slave Riot’s best feature. The same impressive elements of “Nappy Headed History” are displayed on the album’s final track “Black Freedom”, a spirited jam session of sorts that takes the Slave Riot out on a high note. The album ends the same way it began with the familiar sound of vinyl static.

Slave Riot is another fine release from a man with many faces. The negatives are not really negatives, but more-so differences in how certain tracks make a person feel. It’s really a matter of choice and it’s more up to the listener to determine which sounds fit their soul. For some, the experimentation will make them want to just skip to the next track or reach for a Lootpack album. But for hardcore followers of Madlib, Slave Riot will be business as usual.


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