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Madlib-Sound Ancestors Review

Written Before Listen

Madlib is arguably my favorite producer. He has been behind some of my favorite hip hop projects. Working with artists like MF DOOM,Mos Def,Freddie Gibbs,Kanye West to make some hip hop classics. Other than that, he also makes some of his own work that is also amazing in its own right. Albums like “The Unseen”, “Shades Of Blue” and “Return Of The Loop Digga” are some examples of fine-wine Madlib. I came into this album with high anticipation noticing that producer Four Tet executively produced this. Four Tet is another producer who I appreciate the work of making expiramental electronic and dance music.

Four Tet’s Contribution

So the announcement of the album came from Four Tet. Madlib over the past two years has sent him numerous beat tapes and it was Four Tet that had to arrange them and excecutively produce them. Very similar to what Madlib did 18 years ago with Blue Note on his “Shades Of Blue” but now he’s the one getting invaded. Four Tet really does put some of his own flare to it adding psychedelic FX, chimes and found sounds that you would usually find in a Four Tea record. It’s easy to say that Four Tet gave most of the beats here justice.

Your typical Madlib

Your typical Madlib definitely shows up on this album. Songs like “The Call” and “Dirtknock” are examples of Madlib flipping vintage psychedelic and progressive rock into a fire hip hop beat. “Theme De Crabtree” and “Right Now” are examples of his smooth jazzy flavors in his drums and “Two For 2” & “Road Of The Lonely Ones” are a lot like the beats off of Bandana. It’s your typical Madlib which is a pro in its own right and a con in its own right.

Sample Flipping

Madlib is a beat maker who flips samples. A lot of the samples hear have yet to be found but he digs in the usual places. He finds records in the soul aisle, the 60s aisle and the funk aisle. He also finds records in other places too. He finds some in the post-punk aisle and the spoken word aisle as well. Madlib knows where to dig for samples and where to find the best of them.


So there is usually a theme in Madlibs instrumental tapes. Whether if its Blue Note, Indian Film soundtracks or Psychedelic rock, he always finds a way to have a theme to his tapes. This tape has less of that. There is a lot of different styles in here but one thing I do see thematically is due to the interludes. The interludes on this thing are easily devoted to spiritual jazz and tribal music. Four Tet and Madlib both leave them kind of untouched with it sounding like interludes more than tracks. Thematically, I dont really see that much impact in this album.


There does seem to be a lot of variety on the other hand. Madlib dabbles in a handful of styles. There are some tracks that I wouldn’t even consider hip hop. I would consider this album to have a heavy spiritual jazz influence to it where tracks like “Sound Ancestors” “Latino Negro” and “Duumbiyay” purely jazz without any hip hop elements at all. Thats not all either. “The Call” has a lot of Funk and Psychedelic Rock influence. “Road Of The Lonely Ones” is super soulful and really doesnt dilute the sample whatsoever. “Dirtknock” has a lot of Massive Attack or even early Gorillaz vibes to it. “Hopprock” begins with an intro that sounds straight off of a Books record. “Two For 2-For Dilla” has a similar vibe to “Road Of The Lonely Ones” with its blend of uncut soul and boom bap. Does the variety of styles take the album away from being a mixed bag? Unfortunately not but it does bring the album variety


This album does come with its gripes. First off, a lot of the latter half of the album truly gets boring and doesnt get that entertaining. Four Tet does do a good job at arrangement but I honestly feel like there were easily better Madlib beats in the vault. Also, a lot of the spiritual jazz pieces and interludes were kind of lulls for me. Madlib out of anyone does sound very derivitave at some points too. a lot of these beats sound exactly like beats off of J Dilla’s “Donuts”. “Right Now” despite being one of my favorites on the album, sounds way too much like an Alchemist beat. “Road Of The Lonely Ones” sounds more like a Nujabes beat than it does a Madlib beat. Other than that I like the album quite a lot and Madlibs ability to make people headband still applies to this album.


Despite being a mixed bag, I enjoyed this album quite a lot. First listen, I loved the hell out of it honestly. A couple of listens in is where the cons started to annoy me. Theres a good amount of tracks I love on here but there are definitely some tracks that are super forgettable despite the ambition. The Overall verdict though, solid.


1 Comment

Feb 15, 2021

Madlib is definitely one of my favorite producer of all time. This is such a crazy combo. Amazing listen for sure

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