December 30, 2021

Madlib - Vol. 5-6: A Tribute To... (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Instrumental
Label Number: STH2205

© 2009 Stone Throw Records
By the time Madlib got around to releasing Beat Konducta, Vol. 5-6, the stack of tributes to the late J Dilla was piled fairly high. Everyone from Busta Rhymes to turntablist J-Rocc -- a collaborator here -- had already said their piece through song, but Madlib's hesitation to eulogize is likely the reason this is such a rich goodbye, one filled with the more complicated emotions that come after years have passed. Of course this is an instrumental album, and one that shares Dilla's beat tape love of flipping the groove about every two minutes, so there's no direct commentary, just clues in subtitles and moods that come in different shades of blue. The lighter side of the spectrum is found in tracks like "Shades of Pete" where a crooked, Detroit soul bassline supports a reference to the collaborative Jaylib album Champion Sound. In a brilliantly subtle move the pair's mashed-name project is mentioned by the sampled words of a rasta man, while the lifted vocals on "J's Day #3" offer assuring whispers of "love" and "don't be blind." "Infinity Sound" is much less at ease, bouncing between "have no fear" and "have you lived enough today?" but it's these uncertain moments that give the album depth, plus a reason to revisit it after the smooth head-bobbing beats have sunk in. Even though the inclusion of the sloppy "Rebirth Cycle" seems counterintuitive on first listen, the irreconcilable sorrow buried inside comes to light once the difficult track is absorbed. Listeners unwilling to commit should also be warned that this is a long journey that was originally released on two slices of vinyl -- the "Dil Cosby Suite" and the "Dil Withers Suite" -- and even when divided in half, it is much less approachable than previous volumes. Still, it's the rare beat album that grows with every listen, plus it's a great artistic interpretation of all the confusion, sadness, nostalgic joy, and distress Madlib must have experienced after Dilla's early passing.

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tags: madlib, vol 5 6 a tribute to, 2009, flac,