When you think of hip-hop artists who’ve contributed most to music, through years of solo and collaborative efforts — most notably with Freddie Gibbs and the late MF Doom — Madlib ranks incredibly highly. In fact, he’s rap royalty in a DJ’s world, really. So, when the news broke that he had teamed up with electronic producer Four Tet, excitement was afoot — not least because the last time I listened to a lot of his stuff was during a 1am gig at Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen.
Now, the time has finally come for them to bequeath us their dual project, ‘Sound Ancestors’. Jazz, techno, dance — it’s all in Four Tet’s repertoire, so he came with a readymade resume of expertise. Put his sounds alongside Madlib’s I-would-know-these-anywhere tunes and you’ve got a hell of a recipe.
The soft subtleties of ‘There Is No Time – Prelude’ sets the scene nicely, paving the way for tumbling electronics to clash with epic drum beats and sharp, unrivalled hooks. You then get the funky rap-meets-rock vibes of ‘The Call’, which has some great bass string picking in there, too. The same kind of tune filters into ‘Theme De Crabtree’, which takes this album to more of an instrumental level with ease.
Hankering after some of those world-famous Madlib sounds? ‘Road Of The Lonely Ones’ is probably most aligned, for me, with some of his previous material. Things then switch a touch to shape-shift into groovy guitar riffs on ‘Dirtknock’ and ‘Hopprock’. Meanwhile, drums, wind instruments and tinkling notes forge the album-titled track, ‘Sound Ancestors’, which is almost like a jam session between scheduled recording. And, changing things up even more, you get that fabulous funk meshing with samples on ‘Chino’ and the ode to J Dilla, ‘Two for 2 – For Dilla’.
Once you’ve absorbed all these largely instrumental offerings, you begin to realise Madlib and Four Tet were meant to unite. This deserves to be played loudly — whether you’re cooking, sipping gins or even working from your homemade office. Let the dynamism of this mixed-genre collection escort you to a place where the two bigwigs behind the record come together on stage and take a crowd’s breath away at a festival. Bliss.
If you only download one track, let it be: ‘Road Of The Lonely Ones’