Madlib - The Other Side: Los Angeles

Posted April 17, 2007
Tags: Madlib,

If Los Angeles is the city of angels, than heaven must have smog. Eccentric DJ/MC/producer...

The Other Side: Los Angeles Album Review

If Los Angeles is the city of angels, than heaven must have smog. Eccentric DJ/MC/producer Madlib has released a new album, The Other Side: Los Angeles, that’s designed to be a musical tour of the west coast metropolis. The album is a mix of original Madlib songs, collaborations, and selections of forgotten but classic jazz, reggae, and funk tracks. The album feels like we’re invited to tag along with Madlib as he goes hunting through dusty stacks of records in search of the perfect sample. If viewed as the work of a single man The Other Side is schizophrenically confusing, but it’s a perfect representation of LA’s diverse and often-conflicting array of cultures.

Madlib switches identities so often it’s hard to keep track. He’s the anti-Mike Jones, if he gave you his cell phone number chances are it’s disconnected. Such shape shifting allows him artistic freedom, but can also feel uncomfortably disjointed. Beat Konducta, Madlib’s producer alter-ego, lays down the bass-heavy track Smog Theme that frequently shifts sound and voice, as if someone held a microphone out of a car window while driving. Minutes later Madlib’s alien personality Quasimoto puts in an appearance on a track that’s a mix of old school funk and video game sound effects. You don’t have to be high to feel Quasimoto’s high-pitched vocals, but it wouldn’t hurt. The blunted track Infinity is the only song where Madlib appears as himself. The jangling percussion is a subtle head-nodder that reveals a relaxed but fiercely creative artist, though at this point we have no idea who the real Madlib is, and maybe that’s exactly the way he wants it.

Madlib doesn’t just share the spotlight with his many personalities. He has done album length collaborations with other artists, most recently with the late-great J Dilla. The duo goes by the moniker Jaylib, and Dilla’s innovative and rugged style compliments Madlib’s sky-high sound perfectly. Their track Survival Test is one of the best on the album, and serves as a prophetic and fitting tribute to J Dilla’s production genius. Kanye’s success has every producer convinced they need more mic time, but Madlib has no problem just producing. Madlib’s label-mate MED lays down a no-nonsense flow on What It Do that gives the track’s laid-back funk beat a little dirt. Madlib is a self-proclaimed “scientist of sound,” and The Other Side finds him experimenting with all the hip-hop chemicals he can get his hands on.

Almost half the album consists of previously released material; the kinds of songs beat makers use as samples but remain relatively anonymous. The most obvious on the album is Cybertron’s Clear, it’s the basis for Missy Elliott’s Lose Control. From the up-tempo funk of Harris and Orr’s Spread Love to the rasta vibes of Leroy Wallace’s Herb Vendor, The Other Side is a glimpse into the mind of a crate digging producer. The album even features Sun Ra, the futuristic funk pioneer that inspired George Clinton. Madlib isn’t just going back to the originals; he’s digging down to the root’s roots.

If you’re looking for something hot to bang out your Bentley as you cruise the Sunset Strip, you’ve come to the wrong place. But outside the gated communities of Beverely Hills is a Los Angeles overflowing with a noise bordering on chaos. On his latest effort Madlib sounds exactly like this vastly different side of the glamour capital of the world, The Other Side.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

Written by
Posted April 17, 2007
Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Sample Text - Sample Link

More Hip Hop News

Best of DJBooth