ith the bombast of “Shake Yo Tailfeather,” it strains the mind to understand the imagination needed to create such a bumping collaboration between Puff Daddy and Nelly. Collaboration has allowed hip hop to bloom in the last twenty years, providing the spark for a multibillion dollar corporate merger.
However, the collaboration of production duties has received less attention. Handsome Boy Modeling School notwithstanding, the fruits of collaborative production receive less attention than the last (fill in your two favorite pop-rap stars) collabo. With this, two underground auteurs, Jay Dee and Madlib, have provided a collection of tracks that bump, grind and roll. With Jay Dee’s distinct warm synth and crisp percussion, the Neo-Soul movement gained a voice often accredited to the Soulaquarians (of which he was a member). On the flip side, Madlib has produced four (?!?) albums in the last year with remarkable remixings of the classic Blue Note and Trojan labels’ records.
This provides the necessary background for the Jaylib collaboration. With Madlib’s playful basslines and jazz breaks, Jay Dee’s sheen synths and crisp production find their complement. To reinforce the fusion, the two producers alternate songs while rapping over one another’s production.
The first single from Champion Sound was the Dilla bumper, “The Red.” The propelling clean kick drum, breaking piano line and operatic chorus is counterbalanced by Madlib’s irregular rap style, spitting jabs into the track. Madlib’s lackadaisical rhymes provide an effective counterweight to the track’s grandiose vocal sample. When returning to the chorus Madlib speaks “…Turn it up” and itkicks back in like a radio, giving the track immediacy not found in earlier Jay Dee work with Common and Talib Kweli.
Another stand-out is “The Mission,” a lo-fi homage to DJ Premier. Madlib spins a piano breakbeat with strings. Surprisingly, the track ignores the signature Madlib bass-lines that are expected from an artist who champions Lee Perry so frequently. This experimentation is found repeatedly on the album, as the artists appear to trump each other on their productions. The most unexpected element of this is the mixing of hi-fi and lo-fi, which allows any type of sound to appear. Madlib’s lo-fi sample techniques and dirty basslines achieve even greater effect with Jay Dee’s tight percussion work, culminating in Dilla’s “React,” which uses a radically reworked sitar to powerful effect – this is not “Big Pimpin” with the plunging of Abdil Halim Hafez.
This is a producer’s album, so the lyrical content lacks any sort of distinction. The regular raps about “weed, ho’s and ice” ensue, but the most frequently interesting element is the parallel between the producers’ voices. Madlib’s basslines find their complement in his thick-as-molasses voice. Jay Dee has a higher voice, which cuts into many Madlib’s bass-heavy productions. The two producer’s voices provide another element of texture to their productions, albeit in a less flashy usage than the Prefuse 73 cut-up.
And Despite some inconsistencies (“Nowadayz” & “Strip Club” come to mind), Champion Sound does end up growing in appeal after continued listens. The strangeness of the samples coupled with the surprisingly good mixture of hi-fi and lo-fi productions gives the whole album an otherworldly quality that I’m still discovering.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2003-11-14