Madlib says little - he's notorious for not giving interviews - but his music speaks volumes. He's been part of some of hip-hop's finest duos (Madvillain with MF Doom, Jaylib with J Dilla), done his own thing (Quasimoto, Yesterdays New Quintet and Madlib Medicine Show) and produced beats for some of the biggest names in music (Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and De La Soul). He's done all that and then some, so we were delighted to catch him before his upcoming Yugong Yishan date (Feb 21). You can only imagine how we felt when he agreed to play our rap lyric-based Mad Libs ...
If you hate analyzing your music, does that mean you rely on instinct?
Yeah, because I grew up with music. I used to watch my dad (soul singer Otis Jackson, Sr.) recording, that’s how I got my love for the studio. My mother would write his music, so I’d sit at the piano with her and just study what they do.
Do you study your most talented collaborators in the same way, especially someone like MF Doom?
Nah. With Doom, we’d meet up, smoke some trees or do some 'shrooms. Then I’d just give him beats and go crash in another room while he did his thing. When I’d wake up he’d have some songs done, and vice versa. I don’t sit there and hold anyone’s hand – if I can’t trust them like that, I don’t work with them.
Few people trust Doom lately, after they realized he hired imposters to perform some gigs for him.
That was his plan from the beginning. It wasn’t meant to rob anybody of their money, he was just trying to be creative and make it an entirely different thing. But people didn’t really get it like that.
Will the two of your release another Madvillain record?
I hope so, but it’s not even close to bein' done yet. We’re too picky. People are expecting the same thing again, but I’m sampling different stuff now, so you can’t expect it to sound like it did nine years ago.
Over the years you’ve sampled both obscure gems and huge pop hits. Which pop star inspired you more – Michael Jackson or Otis Redding?
Otis Jackson (dramatic pause, then laughs). Both. I like 'em both, for different reasons. Otis, because he had Booker T. & the M.G.’s backing him. And I like Michael’s older, Jackson 5 stuff.
As far as influences go, I wanted to ask if the game Mad Libs inspired your stage name, and if you’d like to try playing with a few classic lyrics. For instance, James Brown’s “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag,” as a Mad Lib like, “Papa’s got a brand new ______.”
(Laughs) “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” huh? (Pauses, laughs). Man, I dunno, I guess I’m not so good at Mad Libs. Lay another one on me.
Michael Jackson – instead of “Don’t stop ‘til you get enough,” let’s try, “Don’t stop ‘til you get _____”
Don’t stop ‘til you get a puff.
Nice. Now, something newer. Erykah Badu, “My cipher keeps movin’ like a rollin' stone.” How would you replace “my cipher?”
“My big ‘ol ass keep movin’ like a rollin’ stone.” Nah, she’d get mad at me for saying that about her, man (laughs). I’m a pervert, I guess.
KRS-One. Instead of “Criminal minded, you’ve been blinded,” how about, “______ minded, you’ve been blinded.”
Maybe ... “Subliminal minded?” “Subliminal minded, you’ve been blinded.” That’s how I roll, ‘cause n*ggas don’t know what I’m thinkin'.
Madlib plays Yugong Yishan on Feb 21 at 9pm. Tickets are RMB 150 (on the door) or RMB 100 (presale).