(Madlib Invazion, 2021)

If you read past the title of this review, you’re probably halfway there.

You see, Madlib, the main alias for California multi-instrumentalist Otis Jackson Jr, is like an addiction. He is one of the most prolific beat-makers and musicians of his era, described to me once by Stinky Jim as “liable to put his breakfast out on a 7”, his productivity is so high.

As far as beat-makers of his post-1990s generation goes, he has a magic touch and an immediately identifiable style – soaked in ganja, strong and expensive liquor (thanks to his pal Egon, who he is often found with), a cocktail of sonic influences and samples from practically anywhere on the planet, head-nodding brain crunching beats which have you in almost perpetual stank face when you listen.

He really hit big with the great MF DOOM on the Madvillian album (2004), and has this incredible musical diversity – from jazz, to funk, to straight hip hop beats and psychedelic soundscapes – you can forgive him for giving up rapping when his good pal Dilla died.

He’s that good.

Sound Ancestors is one of his most anticipated outings in a decade, and sees him team up with Keiran Hebden (Four Tet) to deliver an absolute masterclass in sample-heavy bass-laden beat compositions, grabbing chunks of flavour from ‘70s and ’80s reggae (Riddim Chant), old school hip hop (Hopprock, Two for 2 – For Dilla), space rock (Road of the Lonely Ones, what could be loosely termed the single, given it was on the internet first), free jazz (One For Quartabe/Right Now) psychedelia (Sound Ancestors) and jazz-funk (Hang Out/Phone Off).

You could play every song on this album in a single DJ set. I am not kidding, each one is a killer in its own right.

Demand for this album has been heavy and it created a significant stir on the web when released digitally in February. Several websites and magazines have tipped it to be one of the albums of 2021 and it’s easy to hear why. Although his special sound comes through in every tune, each one is different so as to keep even the most cynical listener interested from go to woah.

I should disclose I did not come into this review in any way objective or neutral. With the recent passing of Jamaican roots chanter and deejay icon U Roy, Madlib moves to #1 on my “Most Want To See Perform” list. I’ve been waiting 17 years to see him play. I’d even settle for a DJ set which in itself would be intense, and if he played in Australia but not New Zealand, well… I’d dash across the Tasman Sea to catch a show. I have more than 50 records, CDs and DVDs on which Madlib features in some form and this is among his finest moments.

A noted recluse who seldom gives interviews, on Sound Ancestors Madlib delivers an album of sonic adventures to suit the club, the bar, the bedroom or the headphones.

Make no mistake, you need this album in your life.

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Jeff Neems