Since the early ‘90s, Otis Jackson, Jr. (a/k/a Madlib) has always been somewhat of a musical anomaly, a ganja-loving emcee/producer who provides memorable beats that walk the fine line between stoner jams and thug anthems. With the passing of his beloved friend and spiritual brother, J Dilla, Mad is one of the few beat-heads left that use the sampler as a musical instrument to further explore Hip Hop’s more ethereal sounds without sacrificing his L.A. street credibility.
On Madlib Medicine Show #11: Low Budget Hi Fi Music, the Oxnard native showcases his latest aural masterpieces in the form of a mixtape. While earlier volumes have focused solely on a wide array of influences that have formed the Stones Throw affiliate’s unique perspective on beat-making (e.g., Jazz, Reggae, Rock and Soul) or compilations of dope remixes and earlier joints, Low Budget Hi Fi Music is strictly for those wanting to hear the Madlib’s “next level” creations. Does this aforementioned full-length live up to the hype or does it have too much filler to be remembered as a worthy addition to the Ox representative’s decorated resume of making left-field Rap music?
Fans will rejoice in the fact that Madlib’s latest offering is as good as anything that he has released in the last few years. There is no question that the addition of various guest vocalists greatly adds to the quality of this particular release, especially in keeping Madlib’s heady sound fully immersed in the harsh reality of the streets. For example, “Real Talk” (featuring L.M.D.) is a masterful joint that fully captures the frustration of blue-collar musicians who are as sick of the music labels for exploiting their art and creativity for the sake of the mighty dollar. “O.G., Part 2 (Underwater Mix)” is another wonderful marriage of abstract beats and rhymes, with Oh No (Madlib’s younger sibling and talented musician in his own right) providing a soliloquy of street dreams that blends smoothly with Madlib’s bouncy drums and chopped-up samples. Thirdly, “Charlie Hustle” (featuring Strong Arm Steady) is a certified banger that fully captures the ethos of the boulevard hustler and his quest for fortune and fame. Other notable tracks include “Start Something (93033)” (featuring the Professionals and Roc C), “Stageridin’” (featuring Frank Nitty) and “Thoughts of an Old Flame” (featuring Guilty Simpson).
Although the majority of instrumentals on the album are wholly entertaining and add to the hushed narrative of Madlib’s laid-back brilliance, the proliferation of skits and short snippets keep this from being a damn near-perfect album. Take, for instance, Madlib’s use of a confusing dialogue from an obscure TV show, otherwise known as “Smoke Break” (Whodat?). Placed between two powerful vocal tracks (i.e., “Loose Girl” featuring Strong Arm Steady and “Interview #4080” featuring Supreme Team), its omission from Medicine Show #11 would not have mattered much to most listeners. Another misstep, “Minze,” is a strange ditty that sounds like it would have been better placed on a Flying Lotus single than on the Stones Throw producer’s album. Last but not least, “Keebler Elf Forest” is an exercise in creative wackiness, conjuring kush-driven images of mythical creatures attempting to bring the Hip Hop ruckus, Keebler style.
Overall, Madlib manages to make smooth, sample-based Hip Hop joints that are abstract but also retain the hardcore essence of Rap by incorporating talented emcees that aren’t afraid to spit that “real shit”. Even though some of the short instrumental pieces are quite unnecessary, Madlib Medicine Show #1: Low Budget Hi Fi Music is definitely a keeper and is a sonic testament to the Oxnard musician’s magical ability to make tripped-out beats that satisfy both the weed head and the hardcore B-Boy/Girl in you.