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Madlib: Sound Ancestors Album Review

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By Victor Guevara
Music Journalist

The best way to describe this album would be a complete melting pot of culture. Madlib, the now-infamous producer, DJ, rapper and multi-instrumentalist completely shows off his masterful skill on his newest album, Sound Ancestors. Pairing up with Kieran Hebden, otherwise known as “Four Tet” as the arranger, the two of them created a complete instrumental project that could almost sound like someone’s playlist on shuffle.

The duo’s album came to fruition after two years of Madlib sending over hundreds of recordings or scraps of recordings to be arranged by his long-time friend, Hebden. This would explain the album’s very diverse elements in culture and sound including jazz, afro-jazz/rhythms, reggae, hip-hop, soul and even more.

And I know what you’re thinking: “If the album consists mostly of scraps and different recordings, it must not flow together at all.” Wrong!

Thanks to Four Tet’s masterful arranging and Madlib’s impeccable sample choices, the album’s flow is one of its best qualities. On the album, you can seamlessly go from a soul groove on “Two for 2” to a very Latin jazz-inspired groove on “Latino Negro” without even batting an eye. Madlib’s and Hebden’s expert understanding of rhythm and pacing allows them to completely hold the listener’s attention for long stretches of the album. They allow certain recordings to unfold and marinate just to throw the listener into a different feel or groove, all while remaining refreshing and keeping the listener engaged. This constant switch of style and culture only further adds to the album’s enjoyability.

The album also completely showcases Madlib’s ability to create atmospheres. From start to end, the instrumentals on the record remain mostly dense and full of energy. His use of background vocals, pans, various drum kits and layering helps contribute to this while also contributing to the grooves of each song.

All in all, while the record isn’t anything different from what we’ve heard from Madlib before, we see some attempts at experimenting. At times, the album can be seen as a bit off-kilter, especially at the points with the more raw bass/instrumentals, the psychedelic rock sample or more almost melancholy atmospheres and tones. Even with the record not being extremely experimental or different, it is still great and holds up very well with his other work. If anything, the record should be seen more as a statement and reminder of MadLib’s skills as a producer, and his impact and status in hip-hop.

Featured Image by Madlib Invasion

Written by: paigegreene07

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