Aaron Worley | Staff Writer
To the untrained eye, and perhaps ear, Madlib’s genius would go unnoticed. But the initiated know that Madlib is actually a multi-instrumentalist, disc jockey, and creative individual with an abundant discography that boasts his reputation as one of the greatest musical artists of this generation.
In the underground scene, his art of production allowed him to create masterpieces such as the classic “Madvillany,” coupled with the talents of MF DOOM, and later “Piñata”, with Freddie Gibbs.
Aside from his collaborations, he has maintained a solo career with his alter ego “Quasimoto.” The showings from him then became sparse; he decided to travel deeper underground than the genre he so vividly represents.
Things started looking up for the music scene when he came up for air and decided to collaborate with rappers MED and Blu. Together they created a group that combined their rapping abilities for a series of projects that presented him behind the board as a mixer and producer. This provides a backdrop for MED, Blu and several guest artists to spit on and to match his beats.
The release of “Bad Neighbor” illustrates his oddity at its finest, however, the songs do not flow as smoothly as expected.
Simply put, it is an album that demonstrates how well a bunch of people rap over unconventional samples and instrumentals.
It takes some time to listen and appreciate the concepts that Madlib introduces in the album. As an album opener, a minute-long sample is taken from a speaker talking to a crowd, asking if they are ready to sing along to the music about to be played. This leads into the track, “Serving”, highlighted by a guest performance from Hodgy Beats.
The constant drum sample, almost spacey, allows for a reckless pace of delivery as he spits, “I spliff herb and get served/It’s the word about these picture perfect/I piss on curves, like I’m freaking nervous/I’m just a pervert.”
What accentuates his wordplay, however, is the craft by Madlib behind the soundboard; an almost hectic reversal of the beat at a faster tempo midway through the track.
The guest appearances on this project come as often as sampled voices interrupt MED and Blu to fill in a word or phrase during their verses. It takes some getting used to, but the expectation of the sample provides excitement and adds an unorthodox element to the lines they are used with.
The album’s standout track, “Burgundy Whip”, presents multiple layers of bass in a funky manner, sanctioning cross-genre influence.
Blu trades verses with MED and special guest Jimetta Rose, reminiscent of his lyrical style in his magnum opus, “Below the Heavens.”
The concept for the song is also different, as the picture painted by its rapped lines expresses the feelings of a couple of friends rolling through town, “whipping in their whips.”
An array of these spirits is present in each of the fifteen songs on the album, all methodically twisted and fused with voice clips to provide a listening experience like no other.
As a fine piece of artistry, and a solid achievement, “Bad Neighbor” succeeds. Its sound may not appeal to most, but those that understand and appreciate the vintage style of production and eclectic lyricism will find delight in it and enjoy the sound.
It is not necessarily a banger, or something that gets you “hyped up” during a pre-game, but who needs that all the time?