It goes without saying that Madlib is one of the most creative minds in hip-hop, and with each new album you never know what new tricks he has up his sleeve. This sort of unexpected turn in Madlib’s music is both a gift and a curse (although generally much more of a gift). For Medicine Show 1: Before The Verdict Madlib digs through his archives to pull up some of his own remixes as well as new material. Some of the older material will likely be familiar to listeners; “Ode To The Ghetto” uses that eerie sample from Deltron 3030’s “Virus”, while “Life Goes By” recycles the beat from Madvillain’s “All Caps”. The problem with this type of compilation is that it comes off sounding like a hastily assembled mixtape, rather than a proper album. It also doesn’t help that the entire project operates on definite lo-fi levels. Intentional or not, the scrambled collection of assorted beats with a layer of fuzz obstructing the sound just doesn’t work in the album’s favor.
To be fair, some of the beats are tremendously enjoyable, and can more than hold their own as singles. The aforementioned beats from 3030 and Madvillainy are pleasant, but special attention is owed to the delicate keys and bells on “I Must Love You”, and the ironically inspirational, Rocky-inspired production of “American Dream & Future”. The majority of the tracks feature wordsmith Guilty Simpson, who is certainly a welcome addition to the album. He brings a grit that is a perfect complement to the loose construction of the album. Guilty comes with his expected hard-hitters such as “you better learn the game and know the ledge, the dudes around here put holes in heads,” on “Yikes”.
The collaboration of Madlib and Guilty on Medicine Show 1 is supposed to be a sort of a prelude to their upcoming project, OJ Simpson. Medicine Show 1 is also the first in a once-a-month, twelve-CD, six-LP series. In theory, all these albums should be strengthening Madlib’s reputation as a beat-maker, and they do because many of the beats are enticing pieces of music. However the sloppy compilation and lack of overall continuity impedes this album from becoming the success it could be.