It isn’t very often that a producer is willing to, or even capable of, releasing a 12-disc instrumental series that is of consistent quality and varying influence. But here we have Madlib, trying to do just that. With his third entry in the “Medicine Show” series, Beat Konducta in Africa draws its sounds from – you guessed it – African music dating back to the ’70s.
Comprised of samples borrowed from African Funk, Rock, Afrobeat, and some more obscure origins Beat Konducta in Africa is essentially a trip through a few of Madlib’s countless crates. “Afritronic Pt. 2” is a funked-out collusion of chants and keyboards, while “Red Black and Green Showcase” teases with a Hip Hop vocal sample over a distant horn loop. “Kanika” provides insight as to where Boom Bap may have originated, and “The Show (Inner View)” is African Rock & Roll. Aside from chopping and mixing the samples, it sounds as though Madlib touches up various qualities on most, if not all on the tracks. As an example, there’s no mistaking the added thumping bass on “Freedom Play.” Theses added qualities serve to accentuate the existing music, and fortunately do not overpower it.
There is more to this album than just Madlib’s instrumentals. There’s a sense of tongue planted firmly in cheek when the Beat Konducta makes use of samples from a narrator of what sounds like an apologist American documentary about Africa for elementary school students. “Yafeu” juxtaposes the narrations with an African chant highlighted by varying percussions and whistles. Madlib provides more food for thought with “Blackfire,” as it uses vocal clips that offer a critical view of the western world’s use of African music. Is it with self-deprecation that Madlib includes vignettes that refer to his craft as “musical masturbation,” or does he count himself among those who promote authenticity?
As an overall package, Beat Konducta is very cohesive – an astounding feat given that it spans 43 tracks. Every track purposely has a “made-in-the-garage” feeling that you might find on an early Wu-Tang cut, which serves the samples well. A pristine and mastered version of this album would be counterintuitive given its content. What is presented here is a window into African music of the past 30 years – one that provides a very versatile listening experience.
Given the ever-changing sound of the 78-minute album, it is excellent background music that’ll keep the head nodding. But heads that are looking to give the record a closer spin will find hidden lessons, and B-boys will have a blast trying to pick out masterfully-flipped samples (even Dave Chappelle is thrown in there, somewhere). The flexibility of this release is what makes it a great addition to any music fan’s collection.