Even as a child, Californian Otis Jackson Jr. sampled his father’s old jazz records, and a few years later he was already making a name for himself as Madlib – which stands for Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats, and it also described his aspirations for his own producer career quite aptly. Indeed, with his unique sampling style, he soon grew to become one of the most sought-after beatmakers in the underground US hip hop in the ‘90s – and he continues to make an impact today. Jackson comes from a family of musicians, his brother and he soon found interest in hip hop, and in the California city of Oxnard they formed the label “Crate Diggas Palace”:Crate Diggas Palace together with other rappers in the early 90s. Madlib also founded the trio Lootpack, which was soon signed to the indie label “Stones Throw”:Stones Throw. In 1999 the group’s first and also last album was released. Madlib was primarily active as an MC here, but around the turn of the century he expanded: as a producer he took responsibility for the beats of other rappers on the label and founded his now-legendary side project Quasimoto – with fast-playing tapes he pitched his voice high and created a satirically tinged alter ego. A few years later, this inspired the German rapper Marteria to bring the stoner art figure Marsimoto into the world.
Madlib’s interest in jazz did not abate despite his hip hop work, and under the name Yesterday’s New Quintet he experimented with the fusion of the two genres – playing all the instruments himself and uniting his compositions in 2001 on the record Angles Without Edges. In 2003, the remix album Shades of Blue was created, on which Madlib threw old recordings of the legendary jazz label Blue Note on the turntables and mixed his own version. With J Dilla, under the duo name Jaylib, the record Champion Sound was created in the same year, on which both rap on one side and produce on the other. A master of collaboration, his best-known album is also the side-by-side work of two creative geniuses: Madvillainy, on which Madlib’s multi-faceted beats are united with MF DOOM’s associative lyrics, advanced to become a milestone in indie hip hop and provided a new reach for the beat giant. A year later he returned as Quasimoto with a new vinyl, but his focus for the next years was on production: for Mos Def, Ghostface Killah, De La Soul and many others he sat at the sampler and the mixing desk. What didn’t make it into the sessions, he collected on a series of albums under the pseudonym Beat Konducta – the producer’s tireless love of experimentation could hardly be stopped.
In 2010, Jackson announced the formation of his own label, Madlib Invazion, on which he released the 13-album Madlib Medicine Show series over the course of two years – it featured numerous previously unreleased works as well as new material. Together with rapper Freddie Gibbs, he recorded Piñata in 2014, which featured a number of big names, including Ab-Soul, Scarface, Earl Sweatshirt and Mac Miller. With the latter, by the way, he also recorded an EP, but after Mac Miller’s death it no longer came to its release. In 2015 he recorded the album Bad Neighbor with the rappers MED and Blu, in 2016 he produced the track No More Parties In L.A. for Kanye West – and he also teamed up with his brother again: as a duo they released an album under the name The Professionals. His work continues uninterrupted, and his beats today are in their own league: no one before in hip hop has mixed such a brilliant whole from music of diverse origins. German rapper and producer Dexter describes Madlib as the cornerstone of his career – he won’t be the only one stating that.