On the Cover: The Elusive Madlib Gives His First U.S. Interview in Four Years

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Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 12:59 PM
click to enlarge STAR FOREMAN
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For this week's L.A. Weekly cover story, writer Jeff Weiss pens an intimate piece on L.A.'s own oft-elusive living legend, Madlib.

We visit the producer in his hallowed studio, "surrounded by samplers, CDs, cassette decks, 4- and 8-track recorders, keyboards and drum kits -- no computers," a place where stacks of vinyl records loom like dusty obelisks.

Writes Weiss:

It's understandable that Earl Grey and scones aren't rolled out to any iPad hack with a blog.

"Interviews are my least favorite thing to do," he says politely, constantly rifling through records, while resisting reductive analysis.

This is his first American interview since 2006, because he has better things to do -- engulfed in a ceaseless surge of creativity, sleeping only two or three hours a night and fueled by coffee and Lucas Valley OG, the strain of medical marijuana he's currently incinerating.

Should the fumes become too tantalizing, he will offer both weed and Swisher Sweets for you to roll your own.

And later, Madlib continues:

"The equipment doesn't matter, it's the vibe you put into it. If music sounds good, music sounds good," he says, so secure in his gifts that there is only objectivity.

It's a brilliance that defies intellectualization: There is no formula, and attempting to divine causal relationships is futile. You can connect the dots to his immediate lineage, hip-hop producers Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Marley Marl. Or you can plumb deeper to the protean prolificacy of Frank Zappa, David Axelrod, Miles Davis or any of the canonized jazzmen.

But they were all intensely collaborative, while Madlib prefers studio solitude. You can even note the inspiration and influences inherited from his close friend and collaborator, J Dilla. But like the ODB, there is no father to his style.

Read more in "The Madlib Mystique."

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