Musical schizophrenia can be stimulating or scattershot or both. Take Miles Davis. Or Madlib. Over the past 14 years, the West Coast's most eccentric indie-rap producer has rarely slowed down long enough to undergo careful examination, causing a welcome glut that continues with this 35-track, hour-long instrumentals album. Listening to his fractured, prolific output-- from the outer space splatters of Lord Quas or the loose jazz of Yesterday's New Quintet to collabos like Madvillain's scratched soul or Jaylib's supple club detonations-- is a trip through his clouded cerebrum with the windows up and the headlights dim. Culled from his extensive collection of records, Madlib's first official beats CD offers the most comprehensive study of where the producer has been and-- with previews of in-progress tracks for upcoming projects, including Madvillain 2-- where he's going.
As much a peek into a genius' process as a tutorial for dust-bin sneezers looking for the perfect beat, Beat Konducta displays Madlib's unrivaled knack for searching out oddities with a magnificently skewed ear. Floating his blurry drums over everything from fart-skronk bass to strong strings to tremulous keys, the beats forge continuity through layers of unsullied samples and enough vinyl hiss to scare an alley cat.
Conceptually based on vintage library records containing stock sound, each track on Beat Konducta is parenthetically labeled with a title and a mood. With emcees reduced to short snippets (Busta Rhymes, M.O.P., and ODB are all paid second-hand tribute), the instrumentals are granted space to mess about and they offer enough fuzzy fodder for listeners to conjure their own jumbles. Various alter egos make unmarked cameos, like when the spirit of Quasimoto comes down on "Face the Sun (Africa)," its bitchy brew marked by a stumbling bassy gait. Or "Sir Bang (Bounce)", which could have easily found a home on the strip-club friendly Jaylib album. And Yesterday's New Quintet vibes infiltrate the D'Angelo-sampling "Pyramids (Change)", which doubles as an appealing demo for the neo/lost soul if he should ever once again come out of hiding. But, more often than not, Beat Konducta finds the producer in Madvillainy mode, offering shifty-eyed funk soliloquies with the help of Diana Ross, whose "Keep an Eye" gives "Friends (Foes)" its paranoid core, or Little Anthony & the Imperials, whose "Help Me Find a Way (To Say I Love You)" is given a light hip-hop dusting on "The Comeup (Come Down)".
Though Madlib's restless joi de vivre keeps Beat Konducta moving at a quick clip-- most tracks last between one and two minutes with tweaks and myriad minor samples zipping by every few seconds-- the lack of MC firepower considerably limits its real-life enjoyability. But the fact that the album is listenable at all is a testament to Madlib's undeniable skills as a hip-hop visionary, expanding the essence with appealing, tarnished grit. In an interview with XLR8R magazine in 2003, when asked about his future aspirations, Madlib responded, "Do...every type of music. All types of black art that there is, I'm going to try to do." As this unmistakable beat CD shows, he's well on his way to that goal.