Rating: 3 out of 5 Potholes
Otis Jackson Jr., a.k.a. Madlib (Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats), evidently doesn’t sleep. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence to the contrary. The man behind some of the underground’s finest hip hop this decade is also a serious jazz fan – which is probably genetic (his brother Michael is better known to hip hop heads as Oh No; his father is singer Otis Jackson; and his uncle is jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis).
Young Jazz Rebels is another group from Madlib’s Yesterdays Universe collective – and their debut album, Slave Riot, is described by label Stones Throw as “an avant-garde free jazz record, a style Madlib has been developing with Young Jazz Rebels since their debut on 2006’s Chrome Children compilation.”
And that description describes the album perfectly. Read it again. Avant-garde free jazz. Anybody looking for something resembling Madlib’s work with DOOM or Percee P should look elsewhere.
The experience (it seems a more appropriate way to describe Slave Riot) begins with what appears to be a “traditional” jazz track; there’s very little of Madlib, or experimentation, on “Ancestors”. The track, however, does begin and end with audible vinyl static – a theme that continues throughout the album. According to Stones Throw, the album was “inspired primarily by independent and experimental jazz vinyl from the late ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,” so the static is a welcome ode to the Young Jazz Rebels’ inspiration.
“The Legends of Mankind” opens with a bang – literally. The heavy rhythm, and almost tribal sound, of the track is a harbinger of things to come; that is, the Young Jazz Rebels love their rhythm – and they’re not afraid to use it. “The Wind,” for lack of a better term, feels more like a Madlib meets jazz record. The sound effects that seem to take centre stage are almost animalistic, but the background music gives them a soothing edge. The combination created by the noise and the instrumentation is a theme the Young Jazz Rebels build on throughout Slave Riot.
“Forces Unseen” is a track that builds and builds – and its electro-jazz fusion certainly showcases the talents of the Young Jazz Rebels (Melvin Hampson, Juggy Lewis, Lena Hamilton, Mary Jane, Tyrone Crumb, Lamont Parker, Monk Hughes, Brother Dave L. and, of course, Madlib).
The two-part centerpiece of the experience (“Slaved Riots, Parts 1-3, Before” and “Slaved Riots, Parts 4-6, After”) is, easily, the most sparse and experimental portion of Slave Riot – and is definitely the high point of the album.
There is, however, a glimpse of the Madlib who has laced countless MCs with classic instrumentals. “Happy Headed History” actually sounds out of place on Slave Riot, but it definitely causes the listener to imagine what labelmates Guilty Simpson or Percee P might sound like on the track.
Overall, the Slave Riot experience is enjoyable – but there might be a bit too much experimentation for hip hop fans or fans of the jazz-hip hop fusions. For the diehard Madlib fan, this is yet another chapter in the man’s impressive discography – but one that might leave them yearning for a return to his “roots” so to speak.