By: Douglas Wolk | Categories: Cuspers, HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Music


The hip-hop producer MADLIB (born 1973) is also a helium-voiced rapper (Quasimodo) and a one-man jazz “quintet” (Yesterday’s New Quintet), among other alter egos. Since 1993, he’s contributed to dozens of recordings, and his breed of crate-digging favors bizarre timbres and explosive individual notes over prefabricated beats — the funk is the part he can add himself. If there’s a particular album that’s his ticket into heaven, though, it’s probably Madvillainy, his 2004 team-up with rapper MF DOOM: a lurching, thick-bassed golem built out of Madlib’s off-center samples of jazz oddities and horror movies and video games and Steve Reich records, brought to life by blowing pot smoke in its face. Madlib’s instrumentals mostly eschew choruses, which works just fine with DOOM’s habit of delivering one long verse of rhymed couplets without doubling back. He also gets points for economy: when DOOM didn’t come through with rhymes for a proposed second Madvillain album, Madlib simply put together an entirely new set of instrumental tracks to go along with the original album’s vocals and released it as Madvillainy 2.


HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date:

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Reconstructionist (1964–73) and Revivalist (1974-82) Generations.



Douglas Wolk, author of Reading Comics and Live at the Apollo, is an arts critic and comics writer in Portland, Oregon. His new book is Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, with artist Ulises Farinas. Twitter: @douglaswolk