Madlib

Madchillainy, Sadhugold (original format: digital download via Bandcamp, 2017)

Revisiting, revising returning to the source, this riff on the Madlib/MF DOOM collaboration, Madvillainy that received much acclaim on its 2004 release (even from magazines that don’t normally report on hip-hop, as the wik-précis explains, rather breathlessly). 

My favourite detail in terms of the background: the fact that the 'record contract' with Stones Throw was apparently signed on a paper plate.

Here is the artist's self-description, provided by Sadhugold:


'Sadhugold, 25, from Philadelphia, been producing for about 10 years now, started with looping "Certainly" by Erykah Badu on Audacity lol. My major influences consist of Madlib, Danger Mouse, Alchemist, Lord Finesse, RZA. I originally started with visual art and cartooning, so I plan to one day animate visuals for my music.'

Sadhugold is part of another circle of artists (Mach-Hommy most notably, but also Fly Anakin, CRIMEAPPLE, Estee Nack, Tha God Fahim, Al.Divino) that resembles the Massachusetts line-up referred to previously, producing and creating music together and thereby forming a new centre (no need to speak of margins).

This release immediately appealed to me when I heard it soon after it came out in September. Only one track is now publicly available, 'Beginning of the Rainbow' via Bandcamp where it's available for purchase for ‘$7.77 or more.’ Here's my response to the song while listening to it in real time, and no I'm not making any claims for poetry: 'thump, swirl, internal dynamics, sloshing beat, meditative complexity … warmth/intensity.’

The YT video  of Madchillainy was quickly taken down. Sadhugold explained that he hadn't put it up. His sales took a ‘serious turn’ after some unknown poster did so he got his 'team' to remove it. But when after a period of time I returned to his email to listen to the links he'd sent through, they were no longer viable. From memory then, the rest of the release is of similar worth. Its defining quality is its ‘warmth/intensity.’  It has real verve, calming, but intense at the same time; a less-jaded, more melodic, much sweeter, more youthful, less pinned-out Metal Machine Music (maybe) :

The act of returning to a previous work and re-interpreting it as a way of showing respect and suggesting kinship has broader significance, of course and is a central part of Black musical traditions: hip-hop, jazz, dub. By chance around the same time, I read this old interview from 2012 with Yasiin Bey in HYPEBEAST, link no longer operational, that referred to this and put it in context.      

What can we expect from your new series Top 40 Underdogs and what inspired it?


I am doing this for the culture. The tradition, taking someone’s song and making your version out of it, is not new to hip-hop. It is similar to dancehall music, where there is one rhythm and many artists offer their interpretation of it. Covering songs is certainly in the DNA of the culture. 50 Cent, as a matter of fact, built his name in New York for awhile doing just that. I also like the community mind aspect of it that it belongs to all of us. It basically gives and extends the life of our culture, our rhythm. Thus, this series is something that comes quite natural for me to do. I’ve done it before. Just look at “Children’s Story,” or even my version of JAY-Z’s “Takeover” in 2004. It is something that is really fun to do, you know, giving different perspectives on a familiar piece. 

To learn more about Sadhugold, here's a great interview he did with Tyron de Harlem (Casa de Lowery). In it he speaks about his reworking of some freestyles by Meek Mill - a coincidence that LA producer  Knxledge put out a similar tape around the same time for possibly similar reasons; I thought this section of his reply on the Meek Mill project was interesting:    

'The first few jawns, honestly ... I just really liked those raw loops. All of the loops that you heard on those tapes were loops that I used to listen to continuously, over and over and over again. And it never occurred to me to put acapellas on it because they’re just loops and not full beats but when I put the acapellas on them sh*ts, the sound that came out of that was different than any flip I’d ever done. It was kinda flat but not in a bad way. It was flat like time space continuum and it pulled out different nuances in his flows that I was already so familiar with that I never really like peeped. And it was just crazy to hear that kind of delivery on my medium and sh*t, something that I listen to all the time.' 

'It was kinda flat but not in a bad way ...' 

'90% of me is you’ Vanessa Kendrick (Glades Records, 1973) & Gwen McCrae (Rockin’ Chair, Cat, 1975)

Nice, with the subtle wah-wah (hard to imagine that adjective being used with this kind of guitar playing style; listening to it again, though I'm not sure if it is in fact a guitar, anyway), the Kendrick version is the smoothest certainly with the vocal-line held level with the music. I really like that over-dramatic build-up that fades, coming back every now and again.

In contrast, the Gwen McCrae version released the following year with its near identical, if not identical backing-track, has a much stronger personality that drives it along it along, making it a more assertive statement that comes through with the refrain ‘What can I do?’

Check out this interview with McCrae by a Swedish woman who goes by the name of Miss Funkyflyy, it's full of strong background information on the much-sampled, respected Soul star from the 70s. I particularly liked the interviewer's personal tale of discovery, where the enthusiasm comes through:    

Raised on Abba, like most Swedish girls of my generation, my first encounter with Soul came at the time when I was still more interested in my dolls than boys. I loved music, though, especially Disco, but the tiny pocket money I received weekly would not allow me to buy records. So when I discovered a huge bowl of cassettes that were on sale at the discount store where my parents bought groceries each Saturday, I was truly in heaven.

So what if the tapes were dusty and several years old! The choice was not easy, but finally I settled for the cassette with the most appealing sleeve. Luscious palm trees and a paradise-like beach adorned the sleeve of “The Best of T.K. Records -The Sound Of Sunshine” and the artists were K.C. and The Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, Timmy Thomas, George McCrae, Benny Latimore.. I hadn’t heard of any of these people, but when I got home and popped the tape in my deck, their music grooved me in a way I had never experienced before.

The climax came when Gwen McCrae, in the finest Gospel-tradition, moaned and wailed her way through a song called “Move Me Baby”. From that point on, I was hooked. The years went by and I grew out of playing with Barbie dolls, but I never stopped loving Gwen and the Sunshine sounds from Florida, the orange State.

Madlib (apparently) sampled McCrae's version of '90 % ...' on his 2001 Beat Konducta, Vol. 0 Earth Sounds release out on Stones Throw records, 'Tape Hiss (Dirty)' (and sampled another McCrae song, ‘I found love’ on his 2008 ‘Gamble on ya boy’)

Coda: