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Someone defining their favorite genre will at some points stumble upon mental roadblocks. Unless they’ve been studying the specific genre at an early age, it’s hard to understand why the genre’s sound effects us so much. There are only a handful of listeners out there who, with full confidence, can grasp the meaning a music genre has on them.
Born in Oxnard, California, an impeccable Hip-Hop producer by the name of Otis Jackson Jr., known by his stage name as Madlib, has understood that concept. His legacy consists of reworking older Jazz and Soul records and adding a Hip-Hop flare to it. Although that describes the whole concept behind Hip-Hop’s sound, Madlib reinvigorates the movement with obscure sampling from foreign films and Acid Jazz vinyl, while integrating an interesting drum and snare pattern unheard of before his time.
As his image grew more present during Hip-Hop’s emergence into the 21st century, his collection of work started to add up to something special.
Long before his Magnum Opus production with MF Doom in, entitled Madvillainy, Madlib was involved with the works of the west coast label Stones Throw, as well as manifesting the raunchy, lyrical character of Quasimoto. A year before his commercial breakthrough with Madvillainy, Madlib shifted his focus on the other spectrum of his taste, Jazz music.
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In 2003, Madlib showed his appreciation by releasing a reworked or revamped altercation of historical compositions from Blue Note’s most notable musicians. The album consists of sixteen tracks and wander through and ponder the works of Bobby Hutcherson, Donald Byrd, and Bobbi Humphrey, just to name a few.
As listeners grow content with their chosen genre, they familiarize themselves with the technicalities and sonic components of what makes the music so enjoyable. Madlib best understands this, especially with his adherent background with Hip-Hop. Shades of Blue demonstrates that your favorite music could be reworked and enhanced if you truly understand it.
With much of his other work, his emphasis was on the MPC. He would scuttle and begrime the sample where it would just barely be recognizable, and change its formula with his patterned use of drums, snares, and reverb. Through his careful enunciations on the original record, the result is an original piece of work from a piece of already established work.
Here, Madlib samples the song ‘So Good’ (1984) by The Whispers
Video uploaded by Stones Throw (YouTube)
In this album, in particular, Madlib wanted to take a step back. Instead of revamping the samples, he wanted to dedicate the legacy of Blue Note Records, not by rewiring their formulas, but rather introduce them. In every track of the album, each sample is recognizable in its original form. The snares and drums only add so much to the samples that present itself in full focus.
This is a dedication album, and Madlib fully respects it by allowing his skill to levitate lower to the ground this time.
In this example, Madlib samples Bobby Hutcherson’s composition entitled Montara:
Video uploaded by billy spalding (YouTube)
Hutcherson’s composition is fully comprehensible to the familiar ear. Madlib’s MPC touch still sheds enough light on the piece but allows the composition to take full control this time.
Shades of Blue managed to work because of Madlib’s vehement respect for the artists. He came from a family based on musical tradition, as his father, Otis Jackson Sr, was a locally known Soul singer. Jazz music was instilled in Madlib’s childhood home, which grew into innate recognition.
He understands that in order to fully respect the genre you’ve consumed, it’s necessary to study it for all of its intricacies. Madlib created Shades of Blue perhaps for himself as well. For all the years using an endless supply of records, it was time for him to introduce the records that influenced him the most.