Madlib: Sound Ancestors

Vinyl had undoubtedly made a comeback over the last twenty years. Many lost pressings are being remastered and you can buy a portable record player at Urban Outfitters. Despite this resurgence in the medium, streaming is currently king. Otis Jackson, aka Madlib, is the last of dying breed. During hip-hop’s golden era, crate digging was a rite of passage for making hits. As the genre changed with the times, so did the production practices. That’s not the case for the crate digging mastermind at the helm of Sound Ancestors. The latest from Jackson is a blissfully expansive stroll through his delicately curated library of music. Sound Ancestors is often a cosmic experience, akin to the works of Flying Lotus. The emphasis is not what’s within the frame, but what can be inspired by the structure it suggests.

Sound Ancestors is a celebration of life, pulsating with a myriad of sonic dialects. Credit must be given to Kieran Hebden, of Four Tet, who creates a truly cohesive glance at Jackson’s taste. The succession of tracks is noteworthy as plenty of moods get equal stage time. It’s a thoroughly melancholy record compared to his recent work. The passing of collaborators looms heavily over tracks like “There is No Time” and the Dilla tribute. Sound Ancestors functions as beat tape while remaining an obscure, vibrant funk record of the highest caliber. The crisp snares of “Road of the Lonely Ones” combined with the falsetto create a dreamlike atmosphere, beckoning for rhymes. The soulful glide of that track is juxtaposed with the geometric, but funky “Loose Goose”. Madlib’s Latin influence is given the spotlight via some truly wacky bird sounds. It’s embraced even further with the brooding, sinful shuffle of “Latino Negro”.

Any perceived bloat may differ on what genre you get down with. Like Dilla’s Donuts, there’s so much to choose from it’s hard to walk away unsatisfied. The smooth walking bassline on “Hang Out (Phone Off)” seems to accomplish what the title track “Sound Ancestors” set out to do. The latter is a rather straightforward jazz track while the former is a little more raw in it’s expression. The cuts on the first half of “One For Quartabê/Right Now” echoes the chaotic, sample-centric production style of early MF DOOM. “Two for 2 – For Dilla” is a sobering moment, as Jackson crafts a two part beat in the way his old friend would have. It contains an understated confidence with its clunky bursts of soul over sloppy drums. The swirling transition to the second half is a gorgeous tribute to a legend gone too soon. The youthful rattle of “Duumbiyay” is relentlessly optimistic, closing things out on a sincerely uplifting note. In order to embrace the future, respect must be given to our ancestors.

Rating: 9.4/10

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