I had originally envisioned this piece as something to give light to a small selection of Madlib deep cuts. Some fantastic songs that might get overlooked if you're still listening to one of the best hip-hop albums of 2014 (Piñata with Freddie Gibbs), or one of the best hip-hop albums ever (Madvillainy with MF DOOM). But prolific is too small a word to describe Otis Jackson Jr.'s careers. He's a producer, rapper as Quasimoto, a DJ of many globe and genre-trotting series (including the just released Rock Konducta Pt. 2), the sole creative force behind jazz "troupe" Yesterday's New Quintet, and so much more. His catalogue is more of an ocean: how do tell someone who's never been in the sea before where to start?
So instead, here's four clips from the video-shy artist, showcasing his method, library and the effects of his music on one of the most influential figures in hip-hop history. Fan or neophyte, they're each an insight into the process of this supremely important artist.
His vinyl collection weighs four tons, and he's got history with every single record
Throughout the weird seat dancing of this uncomfortable one-on-one, we learn about Madlib's uncle's relationship with Dizzy Gillespie (played in his band), his love of Sun Ra (very vast), and his roots in jazz (since birth). No scoop on his filing system, though.
Dilla was a fanboy
Madlib has endured in part thanks to his ear for collaborations. And it's not as though they're hard to come by: even the late J Dilla — who Madlib refers to in the first video in the list as "the Coltrane of hip hop" — gets a little awestruck discussing the man's tunes. Their meeting would eventually lead to the genesis of their rap group Jaylib. Watch some rare footage of them performing "Heavy" live at the Jazz Cafe in Detroit, below.
His shy-yet-illuminating Red Bull Music Academy Lecture
In 2002, two years after his debut Quasimoto record The Unseen dazzled critics, Madlib headed to São Paulo to discuss his process and history. He's a bit reticent, but it doesn't matter. By the end we have a strong sense of omnivorous, confident attitude that fuels his creativity and make him strive to connect with us through music. The host does a good job of teasing out some choice quotes from the esteemed guest, though. Personal favourite: "I don't use computers. I'm a caveman." (Photos of the studio Madvillainy would be recorded in confirm this.)
A fantastic beat made in instant ramen noodle time
In the Red Bull lecture Madlib briefly discusses recording sessions in his hotel, and mumbles "I can make an album in a day." This clip proves it's no empty boast: a few minutes with a sample, an MPC and an SP-404 and he's got something that kills most of his contemporaries even 12 years later.