Madlib — Sound Ancestors — Album Review
Instrumental | Hip-Hop
It should come as no surprise that I have at least been aware of producer Otis Jackson Jr., known professionally as Madlib, for quite some time. I had obviously known him best for his collaborations, namely his collaboration with MF DOOM on Madvillainy, or his numerous collaborations with Freddie Gibbs. However, I had never truly venture into any of Madlib’s solo material; until now.
The brand new solo LP from Madlib, Sound Ancestors not only features his first original set of beats not implemented on another artists work in a while, but has also been arranged by Kieran Hebden (a.k.a Four Tet).
I didn’t quite know what to expect going into this project, mainly because I know just how dynamic and versatile Madlib’s beats have been over the years. the producer has shown a mastery of many different moods, and I suppose that was something I wanted to hear on this record.
But given the title, the closest I could’ve come to a prediction, in terms of how this album might sound contextually, was that there could potentially be a focus on the history of music, and potentially bringing a soulful, and almost tribal feel, which seems to at least be the case with the album’s title track, after I skimmed over it.
But whatever comes out of this project, what excites me most about it, is that it is indeed my first listen of an instrumental album in 2021. And over the past few years, my opinion towards instrumental albums have only increased in positivity, so it was certainly fair to say that I was excited to dive into this project.
What we end up with, is something that I felt brings out more of Madlib’s versatility than anything else. What we get at the very start of the project, is what I would say, felt most like something I would expect from a Madlib project, even despite not completely knowing what I could expect.
Unfortunately, Madlib did lose me a little bit on tracks 5 to 9, where I felt that the beats were relying too heavily on a specific loop or element, as opposed to carrying a more colourful and deep sound. It was only at this point in the album, where my fears of it feeling empty, due to being instrumental, felt most realised.
But thankfully, the title track of this project onwards, was where I felt that Sound Ancestors truly shone. With the tribal sound of said title track leading the way for more jazzy tunes to follow up from it, it kind of felt like the second half of this album has the most fleshed-out sense of aesthetic. Simultaneously, it once again brought the fun back into the instrumental framework of this project, and I found myself finding some of the most enjoyable and unique moments of Sound Ancestors on this later half.
But the best quality of this project overall, in my opinion, is the different ways that listeners can enjoy it. While it’s a fun exercise to ponder what bars could go over each of the beats, I was also able to just vibe out to many of the tracks, which are likely to grow on me sentimentally over time. And with samples throughout, Sound Ancestors is still a project that you can still enjoy right away.
I am very excited to find out just what I think of this project towards the end of the year. But even as it stands now, Sound Ancestors is a finely-made instrumental project, and a great representative of the producers talent and versatility.
Favourite Tracks: Road Of The Lonely Ones | One For Quartabê / Right Now | The New Normal
Least Favourite Track: Dirtknock
Enjoyment: 8/10 | Memorability: 8/10 | Atmosphere: 9/10
Uniqueness: 8/10 | Satisfaction: 7/10 | Narrative: 6/10