Photos courtesy of Red Bull Music Academy
This past weekend, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in New York City, the prolific, California-based producer Otis Jackson Jr., known to most as Madlib, sat down with music journalist "Chairman" Jeff Mao, giving fans a rare chance to hear more about his life, creative processes, and musical inspirations—including that time he took mushrooms to get inspired for an animated project under the moniker Quasimoto.
Giving short but awfully concise answers, Madlib traced his family's jazz roots, how his unique sound was inspired by funk and hip-hop legends like the Ohio Players and The Sugar Hill Gang ("Rapper's Delight" in particular was an early influence). He also dropped hints that many of his unused beats for The Life of Pablo were swooped up by Freddie Gibbs and made into the tentatively-titled Bandana, and admitted that he created sounds for hits like Kanye West's "No More Parties in LA" on an iPad.
The producer also revealed that he will be dropping more new music this year, including collaborations with the likes of Evidence of Dilated Peoples, Madlib's brother Oh No, Pete Rock, The Gaslamp Killers, and some other surprise co-conspirators. Here are the eight best things we learned about the enigmatic beatsmith:
1. "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang was the first song that drew him to music.
"As far as hip hop, I ain't even gonna front, it was 'Rapper's Delight.' That was the first thing I heard where I was like, 'Whoa.' You take that beat and do something over it. I started collecting records after that, old records."
2. He usually makes samples out of an entire album—but keeps most of the beats to himself.
"If I sample a song, I usually make samples out of the whole album. Then I move on after that. Doesn't mean I'm going to release that whole album, but I do that."
3. Taking shrooms helps him solve problems.
"[Quasimoto] came about because I don't like my voice. When I rap they say I sound like Barry White, so I had to do something to make it sound different. I don't advise this, but I had to take some shrooms, bog down, and try to think of something different."
4. He made the "No More Parties in LA" beat on an iPad.
5. He has 20 tracks with MF DOOM ready to release at any time.
"I'm not gonna lie. We got 20 tracks recorded, but that doesn't mean they're going to come out."
6.His next album with Freddie Gibbs, Bandana, uses beats that Kanye West wanted.
"I heard [West and Gibbs] were battling back and forth over a couple of hours for the beats CDs. It was six CDs. Freddie Gibbs took all of it and rapped over everything. Kanye waited too long. That's the new Bandana joint—it's about pimpin', drug dealin', killin', realizing you shouldn't be killin'. That type of stuff."
7. He works in a freemason castle because it's cost-effective.
[In response to an audience question about why he decided to produce music out of a freemason castle] "Cheap rent."
8. He thinks of Dilla as his musical cousin.
"He's a fellow alien. It's hard to explain. A musical cousin. We like the same types of music, which was all types of music. I gave him the loop for "Lightworks." He was the king, though."