Bad Neighbor, the latest Madlib production, features California emcee Nick Rodriguez, known as MED, as a part of a cast featuring fellow West Coast rapper Blu, born Johnson Barnes, and Madlib himself, esteemed DJ, producer and emcee—in that order according to Otis Jackson Jr., the man behind many monikers. United under the Golden State, these three are a crowd you want to roll with. Out via Bang Ya Head, Bad Neighbor features more than ten artists including but not limited to Madlib’s old Stones Throw labelmate Dam-Funk, Aloe Blacc and MF DOOM, a collaborator with Madlib on the Madvillain project. Bad Neighbor is the latest from Madlib since the Trouble Knows Me EP released in September with Future Islands’ Sam Herring, who performs as Hemlock Ernst, and the first full-length release since Piñata,the 2014 collaboration with Freddie Gibbs.
Madlib offers his salutations with “Greetings,” the album’s brief intro, then wastes no time getting to work with MED, Blu and Hodgy Beats on “Serving.” Part of what has propelled Madlib to hip-hop royalty is his instrumental relentlessness. His production alone could effectively be the record and still sell but notable collaborators and featured artists are always welcome fixtures on Jackson’s releases. If Bad Neighbor did exist sans lyrics, it would be far more challenging to definitively categorize.
Next is “Peroxide,” featuring Dam-Funk, DJ Romes and a dancing, vocoder-laced instrumental. The astounding variety of this release lies in the fact that only two tracks on the entire record feature only Madlib, MED and Blu. MF DOOM and Mayer Hawthorne bring the most impressive guest performances to the table on the tracks “Knock Knock” and “The Buzz” respectively. Hawthorne, the Michigan soul act, was a surprise to find on Bad Neighbor considering he once toured with Passion Pit but his inclusion is a testament to the eclectic nature of Madlib releases and the beatsmith’s sophisticated yet retrograde headspace that conversely continues to shape hip-hop’s future.
Bad Neighbor is sleek and refreshing. If modern hip-hop is a slew of department store fragrances to be sampled, Madlib is the coffee beans to sniff in between. MED and Blu have also firmly solidified themselves with this release. The essence of Bad Neighbor, as stated in “Finer Things” by Likewise, is that “it sound royal when you let Madlib design sound for you.”
Recommended If You Like: MF DOOM, Madvillain, Quasimoto, Freddie Gibbs, Dam-Funk