Is there any artist in hip-hop that is more eulogised than Madlib? The consummate beat conductor, the man has been notoriously press-shy throughout his career, only perpetuating the myth that surrounds him. With classic beat tapes and albums running through a vast discography spanning hip-hop, jazz, house and rock, it’s difficult to know where to start when talking about him, let alone talking to him in person.
We were fortunate enough to be granted time with Madlib, and just to add to the occasion, we were graced by an impromptu visit from an extra special guest; the masked villain himself DOOM.
Below we have published excerpts from our sojourn with the duo – be sure to cop our new issue here to read the interview in full.
What was working with Freddie Gibbs like compared to DOOM? Feels kind of funny to ask that now DOOM just walked in (laughs).
DOOM: (laughs) I’m just a fly on the wall.
Madlib: He (DOOM) was at the Stones Throw house and we just connected. I just handed him beats or he’d be in a different studio writing rhymes or whatever. With Gibbs I just sent beats to him and he did his thing over there and sent stuff back. But we actually worked together.
D: It was pretty much organic the way we did it. O (Otis) would be writing downstairs in the bomb shelter, doing the beats or whatever and just come up with a CD. And I’ll hear that and start writing on it and he’s on the next batch of beats right then, it was like a conveyor belt of creativity. We got (the) songs done pretty quick. The first Madvillain record was like as soon as I hear something I write to it. He had a fresh batch of beats that he was doing while I was writing the other one, so it was like ‘bang, bang’. I think that’s something that comes across in how it (Madvilliany) sounds and why it’s such a popular record.
What’s up with Madvillainy 2?
M: We got some songs (laughs).
D: I mean we got a lot of it done already, part of that’s why we’re meeting up now to discuss some of that. It’s in effect but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when.
M: Can’t rush with this kind of thing, especially after the first one.
D: It’s the follow up, without over thinking it though, it’s a continuation, ain’t gotta’ be better or worse. Where y’all last left off at, next episode. We got a lot of songs done. Two or three more songs and it’s wrapped up.
What work are you most proud of?
M: Probably Madvillain and Jaylib. And Quasimoto.
How was the experience of making Jaylib?
M: We’d started on the second one before he (Dilla) died. I was hanging out with him even when he was sick, just beat digging or whatever, take him around and go to clubs and stuff. He had all types of stuff, I don’t know if it’ll (the music will) come out but he had all different types of stuff, like we all do.
You had a pretty special connection.
M: We were musical cousins, like-minded. We weren’t telling each other what to do, (we were) probably drinking and hanging out (laughs).
D: Like ‘yo’ you got a blunt?’ (laughs) It’s almost like telepathy was going on when we’re doing a record, it’s natural.
Sunrays is one of my favorite tracks of yours.
Wow thank you, thank you son, you’re probably spiritual nah mean. Me and Kankick used to bump the original to that all the time. We’d trade ideas and stuff, I have a lot of unreleased Kankick, and before Dilla died we’d be trading things too. He (Dilla) got influenced by some of the things I was doing when he did Donuts, and I took some of his ideas and did some other things, Beat Konducta stuff. Sharing crates, I gave him the Lightworks sample and he gave me couple joints. I heard the whole process, every time he’d do a few beats he’d hand them to me and I didn’t know it’d be an album. I thought it was just beat tape stuff. Every week I’d hear different ones that made Donuts, I was like ‘oh shit he’s doing something different.’
A lot of your music is so raw, how deliberate is that?
M: I’m a first take type of guy, once I do something I don’t really clean it up, I leave it how it is. I don’t polish my shit, I leave it raw. I always want to do it my way, I’ll leave that to technical dudes, I don’t do that.
D: I got into that after dealing with this dude, what I was getting from him was like you said, raw and the way it was, was the way it was.
M: Operation Doomsday was raw though; I love it. That influenced me too!
D: Yeah I’m used to working like that so it wasn’t hard for me to work with him and the spontaneity. For instance, Fancy Clown, I love that song. Now the beat was already arranged like that so I had to write around what he had there, so he had the chorus and kind of everything in there and I had to make up a concept around it, like ‘what is this gonna’ mean?’ And I wrote Fancy Clown around that, based on the original record; I’m not sure where it was from?
M: Oh, you’re taking about the loop? The loop was ZZ Hill.
D: ZZ Hill? That shit is ill. So the chorus is already there, so I wrote the whole story around the arrangement. The beat was already in the middle, the verses space were there, you left the spaces there for me, it’s almost like the instrumental was made first and it was already as it is. So yeah, spontaneity I learned from this guy, to really hone in on that. I was doing it before but he reminded me.
M: Back this way too; we all get different things from each other. (A waitress delivers to the table) I did not know you eat oysters.
D: It tastes just like pussy that’s why.
M: No calories (laughs).