Madlib "Sound Ancestors" Review

Producers are the foundation to every song on your playlist. Whether the sounds are orchestral, pop or grungy, an artist can only thrive when paired with complimentary production. I fell in love with beat makers at 16. Repeating albums from composers such as the late J. Dilla and 9th Wonder introduced me to the wonderful world of sampling. This space was already familiar because of my parents blasting music early Saturday mornings. The soul of 70’s records was warm, bright and overwhelming. That energy exploded through the house in a way that I could never explain without smiling.

Champion Sound, a collaborative project by Jaylib (J. Dilla and Madlib), was my initial introduction to the rugged-analog sampler. I found myself enticed by his production on Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey's album Ecstatic. Madlib has collaborated with other legends such as the late MF Doom to produce the classic Madvillainy. In recent years, Madlib joined forces with Gary, Indiana’s rap aficionado Freddie Gibbs. The duo, MadGibbs, dropped noteworthy albums Pinata and Bandana. His collaborative discography extends longer than this page, but I really wanted to recognize the timely instrumental album “Sound Ancestors”.

What I love about instrumental albums is the ability to create a storyline without influence of lyrics. “There Is No Time” starts bright and glowy as it slowly swells but rises in chimes and cymbals. I see myself lying on a bed, waking up to the sun peaking through my window shades. “Rise into the call, I’ll give my life and all” plays as an appropriate sample on this beat “The Call”. The innocent chimes play softer as the electric guitars and drums take center stage. I’m no longer comfortably laying on my bed. Instead I’m fully alert preparing to defend myself against the world even when the sun is out. “Theme De Crabtree” is lighter in energy with sweet melodies and shakers dancing over friendly drum patterns. I imagine walking down the block in my neighborhood, speaking to people passing by, and watching kids play as “Got to be conscious, got to be righteous” whisper to me as it does on the track. “Road Of The Lonely” is the perfect title to describe the next part of this story. The melancholy strings play the emotions of every person putting their dreams before their personal relationships. The sample begs for understanding and companionship on a road less traveled. “Where did I go wrong?” Unable to dwell on the heartbreak we are greeted by the festive track “Loose Goose”. The festivities have a tendency to include cyphers in which “Dirtknock” plays the best background music.

The story still has me traveling the streets until I stumble upon a hidden gem behind a building on “Hopprock”. The mysterious ambience breaks into chants, claps, and guitar plucks. It’s clear I walked into another world. Was it something someone gave me? What did I drink? What did I eat? I became momentarily relieved by the warmer ambient sounds on “Riddim Chant”. This had to be a time machine because “Sound Of The Ancestors” took me back home. African instrumentation moved unapologetically on the intro mellowing into flutes, chimes and drums. They must have seen how nervous I was. Truly, I was overwhelmed because it felt like I was in a silent scene of a Spike Lee movie. Is that an accordion or a harmonica? “One For Quartabe” whirled me into what felt like the 80’s and glided me into a jazzy seductive mashup on “Right Now”. There was no doubt I was at a 90’s party by “Hang Out”. I almost forgot I was time traveling. Imagine being able to cypher and party with the legends that influenced you. It’s enough to make you cry. “Two for 2-For Dilla” was a beautiful ode to a pioneer in this production game. I got to see him on this. Fully aware that I’m in a whole different time period now, I begin to explore comfortably. The festivities continued with guitars and drums of a different cultural influence on “Latino Negro”. I reached the pinnacle of celebration then suddenly, I was violently sucked back into the portal on “The New Normal”. The futuristic sound was alarming at first, but began to mesh with the remnants of the portal by “Chino”. I was walking down the block with more pep in my step than before, with Aretha Franklin crooning on the record. Before I returned to my side of town, I peeked behind the building to catch another glimpse of the portal. It was gone. I would have thought I was hallucinating until I heard the African instrumentation of “Duumbiyay” reminding me that this journey does not need to be explained to all but understood for myself.

“Sound Ancestors” is available for purchase on vinyl. Thank you Madlib.

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