Madlib – Medicine Show No. 11: Low Budget High Fi Music
[Stones Throw, 2011]
Jeff Pearson, February 3, 2011
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath
Listen: “Cheaters – Episode #3 (Featuring MED & Poke)”
Prolific Los Angeles producer Madlib has been churning out releases at a steady pace since the beginning of the century, and with the amount of output he’s produced, you could pick any of the last three centuries and consider that to be a healthy catalog to this point. Madlib’s work is characterized by his vast well of knowledge of the world of music, with releases ranging from jazz and African traditionalism to soul and thunderous hip-hop. Low Budget High Fi Music, the latest offering in the Medicine Show series, a collection of works Madlib intended to release monthly for a year, sees the producer digging into the dirt and pulling up his hip-hop roots.
“Now, if you have a pair of headphones, you better get ’em out and get ’em cranked up, ’cause they’re really gonna help you on this one.” Madlib lets Todd Rundgren introduce Low Budget High Fi Music, with this lengthy sample of Something/Anything’s “Sounds Of The Studio” game. Once Rundgren has walked us through the sounds which we will hear throughout the record, Madlib dissipates the studio into a noisy hip-hop club, where an unnamed emcee reveals the evening will be filled with—that’s right—special guests. The guests are aplenty throughout the record; Madlib even includes a track meant for the second Jaylib album, “Louder”, that never saw release due to J. Dilla’s tragic passing. One can’t help but consider J. Dilla when listening to Madlib’s work, as the spirit of J. Dilla is the spirit of hip-hop, breathing life into every track.
The record shares commonalities between that of Madlib’s previous works, with the constantly mutating samples bleeding into one another to create a dizzying, yet constantly enchanting listening experience. Despite this shape-shifting quality, Low Budget High Fi Music feels more cohesive than most of the previous Medicine Show offerings. It plays less like a mixtape and more like a jam session between the Loop Digga and all of his closest friends, each stopping by Bomb Shelter to add depth to the tracks via their lyrical contributions. The conspirators include the likes Madlib’s brother Oh No, the previously mentioned J. Dilla, Guilty Simpson, Strong Arm Steady, LMD, and J Rocc. This cast of Stones Throw all-stars peppers the album with thoughtful lyricism and fun, fluid delivery, while Madlib keeps the party going underneath.
Madlib’s beats are at their best here, taking on a hazy, soulful quality in “Cheaters – Episode #3”, while the bass rolls down our spines and lodges itself deep within our souls. Tracks such as this, along with “Real Talk”, have the quality of pulling away a curtain in the listener’s mind to reveal a displaced hip-hop group tearing up a low-key jazz club on a late Friday night. One can almost hear glasses clinking within and lively white noise spilling from the streets beyond the walls. Many of the tracks occupying the hour-long Low Budget High Fi Music are instrumentals, displaying Madlib’s uninhibited prowess at digging deep into music’s underbelly for samples to craft the perfect beat. The Beat Konducta treats “Handmade Hustle” to a walk through the back alleys of cold Harlem night, wearing only a thin orchestral coat for protection.
Overall, Low Budget High Fi Music stands as one of the greater Medicine Show releases, and displays Madlib’s love for putting his stamp on the hip-hop underground. This is simply Madlib doing what he does best, doing his best to emanate that spirit from within hip-hop. After all the years, many have forgotten what hip-hop is all about. This is all about fun. He ends the album with a plea from all of us, a plea put into words ever-so-eloquently by J Rocc: “What up Madlib? Kick that beat Madlib. Yeah, Madlib, kick that beat. Let’s go. Yeah, kick that beat Madlib, come on man. Kick that beat.” Kick that beat, indeed.