This is the first installment of “Inspiration Information,” a feature series that asks musicians to write about some of the influences that helped shape them. In this episode, DFA-signed producer Larry Gus explains his love of Madlib and contributes a mix of his favorite songs from the unseen. If you’re unfamiliar with Gus, this recent Spin feature by Phillip Sherburne is an ideal place to start.
On Otis Jackson Jr
“If you work all day / and your heart ain’t in it /
So why get up and get all mixed up in it? /
‘Cause all your work will be in vain /
Or is life a losing game? /
You only reap just what you sow”
Madlib is the single most important thing that happened to me musically. It made my mind free, my days longer, my nights quieter and my life happier. In a way, he reminds me of Raymond Queneau. Hmm, maybe the opposite. Queneau reminds me of Madlib. When i first read Les Fleurs Bleues and then started reading about Queneau’s life (writer, poet, inventor, mathematician, humorist, pataphysician, co-founder of oulipo and all around genius) i was only thinking constantly of Otis Jackson Jr’s lifetime achievements, work ethics and creative genius.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Greece, with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nirvana, Pink Floyd and REM. My relationship with hip-hop had always been weird, just for the sheer fact that i could only understand some of the lyrics, and even for that i had to put down too much actual effort. I was always focusing on the production. (first hip-hop albums i bought: Paul’s Boutique, It Takes a Nation of Millions, 3 Feet High and Rising, and Things Fall Apart a bit later)
My first Madlib related experience was early ’05 with Madvillainy, and it was earth shattering. Around that time i was into producers such as Timbaland, Neptunes, Rodney Jerkins, Kevin Briggs, Scott Storch, Rich Harrison etc, all of them in a way hi-tech and hi-fi. Madvillainy destroyed me, I couldn’t stop listening to it for months after months. In my mind it sounded as if Since I Left You was produced by Prince Paul. I then bought Jaylib’s Champion Sound, The Unseen, and after a bit, Beat Konducta Vol 1-2 came out.
Around July ’06, I was suffering from a sunstroke, waiting for my first sampler to arrive in the mail (a Roland SP-404). I was trying to sleep for a few minutes, only to soon wake up dizzy in pain, shoving down non-functioning paracetamol pills and only listening to Madlib’s Shades of Blue and Further Adventures of Lord Quas (and the Εxchange Sessions Vol. 1 by Hebden/Reid, but that’s another story), trying to understand where and how he was using the SP303 sampler, (precursor of the 404). Everything was messy in my head, this perfect feeling where your perception turns everything upside down. In retrospect, I was a bit dumb for trying to simplify his creative process like that, but expectations are a dreamy place, and I would like to live the rest of my life in there please.
All those years, there is nothing that i find more enjoyable to listen to than endless playlists of Madlib beats. I spent too much time online (and offline) trying to find all those rare beat tapes that somehow evoke the same feeling when reading Queneau. Everything is referenced vertically, simultaneously, as if all parallel universes make themselves known in the run of those tracks, in a way that would even make Borges feel weird.
The fact that he has a whole lifetime of creative work hidden in his vaults, and the way that he keeps everyone confused regarding the original time frame of the tracks, well these are things that made me get even more obsessed with him. It’s amazing how it seems that he moved the whole curatorial aspect away from him and straight to the public/audience/listeners. (although he has stated that he has only 30% of his work released so far). There are folders online with names such as “Madlib Beats 250-300” (!!!!!) And who knows, maybe there are others, with names like 1700-1750, or even higher than that. For everyone creating music, this could only be intimidating. But it can also be inviting.
Borges says that the infinite combinations of all letters in the english alphabet can be contained in some billions of books, but they can also be written in a tiny book with an infinite amount of ultra-thin pages. Madlib takes my head and makes me look straight into the infinite abyss, blurring past and future so effortlessly. He makes me want to die. I was seeing an interview, and he was telling how he sleeps 2 hours every night, just writing music all day, all week, all month, all year. In that way he reminds me of Woody Allen. They both adhere to this fundamental belief that creativity comes first above anything else, and that all the rest is just a fucking circus, where you don’t have to be involved with if you don’t want to. (And it’s crazy that he actually is a Woody Allen admirer!! )
There are three links that describe in a specific way the awe i feel for him:
-this interview: http://www.stonesthrow.com/news/2004/10/madlib-interview
“So that’s all you need: Your tiny little sampler, a cheep turntable and a stereo system?
Yeah, some records. That’s where Hip-Hop is from anyway: Records and sampling. That’s what I do, you know what I’m sayin’?”
-this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbIxeHDHBeQ
he grabs the loop so effortlessly, and then he does the signature move on the SP-303: Vinyl Sim: Noise and Flutter all way to zero and Compression full up to 11.
and above all this picture: http://www.stonesthrow.com/images/2004/stonesthrow-madvillain-01.jpg
I wanted for many years to have this picture framed so i can look at it every day, forever. If i lose everything in life, this is enough for me to find my way again.
The mix I did has some of the madlib instrumentals that I love. I didn’t include much else than his beat work, I mean I love YNQ, DJ Rels, Young Jazz Rebels, Jackson Conti and the whole other universe of aliases, (i mean, seriously, fuck me, that guy even plays perfect drums and he is an amazing improviser) but I had to set some constraints. Anyway, I think that the beat around the 25 min mark named “Track 27” from his 60 Beats CD, contains the essence of happiness for me. At some point while I was listening to it, I was hitting my head so hard with ecstasy against the wall, that I almost heard Madlib’s voice whispering to me. Kostantia found me bleeding on the floor, unable to speak or move. If I ever meet him in person, I think I will just start running scared until I’m out of breath. And then I will just lay down on the pavement and die. — Larry Gus
title of the mix: The Blue Flowers (Between Blue and Blue) – 54 Madlib Beats (Mixed by Larry Gus)
Listen to Larry Gus: