Madlib is at it again, and I’m not just talking with a new release. In a month, the man has released four albums. It’s like those old U.S. Army commercials where the voice-over stated that the people who enlist will do more before 9am than what most people do all day. What he has done, even in a year’s time, is more than a lot of artists have done in ten years. Granted, Madlib may not have the celebrated hits, and he may not have created the kind of earworms Hollywood tends to want to sponge out of anyone and everyone who is willing to spread their buttchecks, but what Madlib has is class, style, substance, and let’s be honest, a true “I-don’t-give-a-fuck” attitude that isn’t only an attribute to stoners, but a hip-hop attribute that has since been placed in storage.
Credited to the Young Jazz Rebels, Slave Riot (Stones Throw) is being pushed as a “free jazz” album. Anyone who has listened to the many projects he has released under the Yesterdays New Quintet/Yesterdays Universe umbrella knows that anything and everything can happen at any given time. Sometimes the “group” will get locked into a funk and it sounds brutal, rural, and incredible, and as they make their way towards the next song, they’re searching one another to find a common consciousness. With the Young Jazz Rebels, it’s about the search, you hear the examination of each others need to create and make sounds. The craft behind this album sounds as if someone brought Art Blakey, Pharoah Sanders, Rashied Ali, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, John Gilmore, Lester Bowie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Derf Reklaw, and Miroslav Vitous into the studio, and said “let’s play until the 25 foot candle melts into the ground.
Within that process are songs, suites, mini-suites, everything is somehow linked together be it musically, sonically,and if you think deep enough, physically. Percussion instruments rattle off as if they are chains from distant ships long forgotten by some, but are always a means of resistance and tolerance for many. Some sounds come off as things fading away into the ocean, while others is the pain and frustration of making it in the concrete jungle, especially in tracks like “Hate/Love”, “The Sun”, and “The Legend Of Mankind”. Out of the blue (black), a human sensibility (i.e. melody) comes in within “Newear” and changes the soundscape all together. Things become musical, only for it to melt and dissolve into that ocean with unknown entities sinking slowly as it extends its hand, trying to survive or at least make it up for air once again.
To make that a bit more palpable, imagine all of the dramatic freak-outs one may hear on an albums mentioned in this interview. Introductions and interludes that help develop or lead the way towards the song. This is what the Young Jazz Rebels are about, freaks that are about the satisfaction of creating psychedelic moments that may or may not be influenced by hallucinogens. Maybe it’s natural, maybe it’s substantial, no one knows.
To bring things down to Earth, Madlib has definitely blurred the thin line between what may be real instrumentation and what could be samples from his record collection. When he moves towards this direction, he’s very much like Jan Jelinek where he’s making music out of the non-musical, or elements that are often discarded as just noise are turned into something very exciting. If you enjoyed what Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm did on their fantastic A Tribute To Brother Weldon, Slave Riot is not too far from that where songs, sounds, and stories bathe with each other as if Madlib is the pimp and the members of the “group” are his realized fantasies. It’s very orgiastic, and that’s the fun, to be a spectator and either go “this is fucking brilliant” or “I don’t know what the hell this is, but it’s definitely something I have to listen to again.” Will you find the next generation of breaks here, perhaps not. Will you find enough information worthy enough to sample, sure, but it’s the realization that Madlib is a producer who not only creates sample-based producer, but is also adding to the sample library not only for more adventurous producers, but himself. It’s as eclectic as Pink Floyd when they create music for art-house music, but it’s as Afrocentric as he makes it out to be, as if he’s calling back to those who came before him to continue the link between self and origin. This is the sound of hundreds of years of pain and suffering resurfacing and making itself known in a modern context, a Slave Riot if you will, an extension of Sly Stone‘s There’s A Riot Going On. Judging from the sounds here, the riot never ended.
It is also possible that the Young Jazz Rebels is music from the mind of someone whose attitude is simply about placing himself into his music, removing the consequences some will place on music like this, created by sound enthusiasts like him.