In Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records, a 2013 documentary about the eclectic hip-hop label, then-rising hip-hop producer Madlib is portrayed as perhaps the only beatmaker who could hold his own alongside the late, great — and famously reclusive — J-Dilla. The film digs into the relationship between the pair, particularly the release of their 2003 cult-classic collaboration album, Champion Sound, under the Jaylib moniker. It marked a rare moment, when J-Dilla — widely considered to be the most influential producer of hip-hop’s golden age — found a contemporary who was as dexterous, manic, and laser-focused on the boards as he was. And for Madlib, born Otis Jackson Jr. in Oxnard, Calif., Jaylib was just one of the first of many collaborations and incarnations of his musical mind.
Madlib is in fact the very definition of multifaceted. The number (and names) of the projects he’s helmed in the past 20 years is equal parts daunting and downright intriguing. On 2004’s Madvillain, he teamed with rapper MF Doom for a jazz-tinged hip-hop concept album about a rap supervillain with fierce lyrical skills. The Yesterday’s New Quintet project is an electronically minded jazz quintet made up of Madlib alter egos and imaginative players who once released an album of Stevie Wonder instrumentals, the aptly named Stevie Vol. 1. On Shades of Blue, Madlib “invaded” the Blue Note Records vaults, reviving label classics from the likes of Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, and including a masterful retooling of Bobby Hutcherson’s “Montara.”
A well-established hip-hop production force and, quite frankly, a crate-digging demigod by 2010, Madlib began working on his Madlib Medicine Show. The project yielded 13 albums, and saw the producer delving deeper into jazz, funk, and soul samples, along with deeper explorations of the music of Brazil, Africa, Jamaica, and beyond. (He makes a rare Bay Area appearance on Feb. 22, for a DJ set at 1015 Folsom.) Cocaine Piñata, with a 2014 effort with rapper Freddie Gibbs, saw him gain more mainstream acclaim, and he then released his most commercial composition to date, producing the cognac-soaked “No More Parties in L.A.” with Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar off of West’s The Life of Pablo. (And yes, Madlib is also slated to produce the long-awaited next Black Star album.)
You get the idea, right? Madlib, behind some of the greatest jazz-infused hip-hop records of all-time, is as prolific as they come. Few producers of the last 20 years have been this revered. The man deserves every ounce of credit for keeping hip-hop’s palette focused on the classics. One might even say that since Dilla’s all-too-soon passing in 2006, Madlib has assumed the role of hip-hop production’s guiding hand. Nobody else was fit to bear the torch. Dilla would agree.
Madlib, Thursday, Feb. 22, 10 p.m at 1015 Folsom. $25; 1015.com
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