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BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: Madlib

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#19 – Madlib

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Madlib. Pioneer and master of the west-east sound.

As I mentioned in my description of DJ Khalil (#25 on the BeatTips Top 30), when it comes to west coast beatmaking, the west coast is often thought of as Dr. Dre’s domain. Which is to say that many people think west coast beatmaking styles and sounds mainly fall under one of Dre’s musical’s spectrum or another. But everything in the west coast is certainly not G funk based or west coast bounce. What’s lesser known is the fact that the west coast has it’s own form of east coast sound (think Alchemist, DJ Muggs, Domino, etc.). I call this the west-east sound.

The west-east sound is typified by most of the same fundamental components that you’d find in the basic east coast sound. There’s hard hitting drums, chopped samples and breaks, and typically a boom bap feel (sometimes more or less subtle). But the west-east sound also sometimes incorporates west coast-grown elements like moog bass parts, the west coast bounce, and a number of different sonic characteristics that students of the art of beatmaking associate with the west coast sound.

Along with DJ Khalil, DJ Muggs, Domino, and The Alchemist (who’s really rocks an east coast style and sound more than anything else), Madlib is one of the top practitioners of the west-east sound. Actually, I consider Madlib to be the sound’s primary pioneer. But while DJ Khalil often incorporated distinct west coast elements into his style and sound, Madlib stayed steadfastly more true to an east coast style and sound — this sensibility is particularly noted in his earlier works found on his group Lootpack’s debut album Soundpieces: Da Antidote. That Madblib remained true to his east coast/crate diggin’ influences at a time when mainstream and underground hip hop/rap was grappling with its identity is quite telling.

Soundpieces: Da Antidote is a hip hop/rap classic! Unfortunately, the album is not as well known as it should be. Had the album come out in the early 1990s rather than 1999, unquestionably it would have been celebrated as classic and pivotal beatmaking work. But alas, but 1999, things had changed. Still, Madlib’s work on this album can not be ignored. The fact that it was released in 1999 and not the early 1990s is excellent example of how certain beatmaking styles and sounds are simply timeless — for those who’ve study them and know how to master them. Just as True Master helped stave off total domination of sample-free hip hop/rap music, Madlib was extremely instrumental in helping to keep the art of sampling’s unique and prestigious profile alive. Moreover, Madlib’s “antidote”, in the form of dope beats, was a direct and critical strike at the illness (i.e. lack of serious art, particularly where’s sampling’s concerned) that plagued hip hop/rap music in the late 1990s. Indeed, I found the beats on Soundpieces: Da Antidote to be one of the most encouraging and refreshing collection of beats that I’ve heard assembled together on one album. And history has already proven whether or not the antidote was effective: Countless beatmakers post-1999 continue point to Madlib as their main inspiration.

Certainly, Madlib’s style and sound was not limited to Lootpack’s debut. Following
Soundpieces: Da Antidote, Madlib entered a largely experimental spectrum that saw him diving even deeper into his diggin’ in the crate roots and rethinking basic drum frameworks.

Finally, just as with Ju Ju and Psycho Les of The Beatnuts and Havoc of Mobb Deep, Madlib didn’t just rhyme as a side-job, it was his full-time gig as one-third of the Lootpack. A job he was equally adept at. Furthermore, under the name Quasimoto (Madlib’s hi-pitched rhyme alter-rhyme ego), Madlib to continued to carve out a name as a rapper. For this, Madlib also holds the prestigious distinction of being in the canon of hip hop/rap as both beatmaker and rhymer.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Madlib Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

SPECIAL NOTE: If you haven’t already, listen to the entire Soundpieces: Da Antidote album by Lootpack straight through, no interruptions. The album is a hip hop/rap classic. Unfortunately, it’s not as well known as it should be. Had the album come out in the early 1990s rather than 1999, unquestionably it would have been celebrated as classic and pivotal work. But alas, but 1999, things had changed… Still, the album exists for study. Madlib did the beats for the whole album, and it gives a good sense of where he was at that time and who/what his influences were. Listen for influences from DJ Premier, Showbiz, and Diamond D in particular. And notice how Madlib was already building upon his influences.

“The Anthem” – Lootpack beat by Madlib

“Long Awaited” – Lootpack feat. Dilated Peoples beat by Madlib

“Axe Puzzles” – Quasimoto (AKA Madlib) beat by Madlib

“Low Class Conspiracy” – Quasimoto (AKA Madlib) beat by Madlib


“Law of Physics” – Lootpack beat by Madlib

“Return of the Loop Digga” – Quasimoto (AKA Madlib) beat by Madlib

“Raid” – Madvillain beat by Madblib

“Great Day” – Madvillain beat by Madlib

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album ‘The Best of Times.’ Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual