I swear to the sweet baby Jesus, if I see one more HipHopDX
reader posting the words “What does this have to do with Hip Hop?!” in the
comments section, I’ll erupt with Vesuvian velocity and unleash my laptop’s
unholy wrath to stomp a figurative mudhole in their ignorant ass. If you don’t
understand the origins and evolution of a genre that is the culmination of
hundreds of years of African-American cultural history, then sit down, shut up
and try opening your earhole instead of your piehole for once while I break it
down for you. Then and only then will you grasp why Madlib‘s
latest Yesterdays New Quintet release is as important to Hip Hop
culture as anything 2Pac or Biggie ever
recorded.

It all began with the drum. In Africa, the drum was sacred and ceremonial.
Its rhythms provided the foundation for songs about everything from history and
current events to rites of passage and communication with the ancestors. When
slaves were taken to the Caribbean, South America and the “new world” that
became known as the United States of America and denied their musical
instruments, they took to singing in time with their work as they chopped trees
and hammered spikes for the railroads that would speed the progress of
America’s industrial revolution. Spirituals such as “Wade
in the Water”
not only gave birth to gospel music, they also
spurred the anti-slavery resistance as a subtle form of rebel music.

From a blend of African folk music and gospel emerged the blues, and from
the blues emerged jazz, then rock ‘n’ roll, all of which were initially
repudiated as sinful by the white establishment’s elders only to be embraced by
its youth. Visionaries such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, James Brown
and Herbie Hancock began to blur the lines dividing the
disparate musical genres of the African-American diaspora, and as funk gave
birth to disco, the early seeds of Hip Hop’s roots were sown.

So what does all this have to do with Madlib, the
next-level producer behind critically acclaimed projects such as Lootpack, Quasimoto, Jaylib,
Madvillain
and Talib Kweli‘s Liberation? Well, on the surface,
this album of true school jazz tunes recorded by the multi-instrumentalist
mastermind behind the Yesterdays New Quintet moniker has
nothing whatsoever in common with the modern Hip Hop scene. There are no
Jeep-thumping beats, no catchy choruses, not even a single rhyme to speak of.
Instead, the artist formerly known as Otis
Jackson Jr
. offers up his distinctively stylish take on jazz classics such
as Miles‘ “Bitches Brew” and Bebeto‘s
Barumba” alongside original tracks that have no
problem measuring up in comparison. From the piano-driven swing of “One
For the Monica Lingas Band” 
and the blaxploitation funk of “Street
Talkin'” 
to the African percussion and spaced-out sounds of “Vibes
From the Tribes Suite
,” this album is more tailored to fans of Sun
Ra
than Sa-Ra, encapsulating several hundred years of
African-American musical history in a concise 15 tracks. And if fans of Weezy,
Jeezy
and their ilk don’t get its relevance to Hip Hop culture, it’s
only because they haven’t been paying fucking attention.