There's very little left to say about Madvillainy.
It's a record that's invited a passionate reverence that few albums, rap or otherwise, have received. A one-off collaboration between a legendary unorthodox producer and an intensely poetic emcee, it's a fusion of rhymes and rhythms that refuses to yield. For each and every exceptional bar, there's a similarly inspired sample. It's this sustained effort from both producer and rapper that makes Madvillainy special: whilst the efforts on the album would dominate or overshadow in a less potent pairing, the duo of Madlib and DOOM balance their sustained efforts over 22 tracks.
This having been said, one of the true joys of Madvillainy is Madlib's inspired, innovative approach to sampling. His wealth of musical knowledge is seemingly peerless, and his ability to stitch samples together is awe-inspiring. It recently occurred to me that each and every sample on Madvillainy has a life of its own. That is, of course, the nature of sampling: in borrowing an element from another artist, the producer is removing the element from its time and recontextualizing it for their own use.
That thought inspired me to document every sample on Madvillainy, turning a classic album into a cultural roadmap. Not only does identifying samples increase one's appreciation of music, but it also opens one up to a variety of different subcultures, movements and artistic niches. Madlib's samples, oft-esoteric and unconventional, provide a window into some weird and wonderful culture. Though less comprehensive, there's also a Spotify playlist featuring all available samples in order of appearance.
From Sexploitation to Afrofuturism and everything in between, this is Madvillainy.
"The Illest Villains"
The album opens with a brief, two-minute skit that borrows from the monster films of yesteryear. This use of vintage villainy steeps the record in a long history of terror, invoking images of Frankenstein and teenage werewolves.
The most prominent sample is the instrumental upon which the narration plays: this is taken from Sun Ra's "Contrast," a track off his 1970 record, My Brother The Wind. A legendary artist and chief proponent of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra's work has become a mainstay of hip hop's sampling culture, appearing in tracks by The Avalanches, Quasimoto, Joey Badass and Kirk Knight. He reappears on Madvillainy tracks "Shadow of Tomorrow" and "America's Most Blunted."
Another of the track's distinctive sounds is taken from Morton Stevens' Hawaii Five O soundtrack. Though the program is best known for its kinetic theme, also written by Stevens, it was at one time America's longest running police procedural. Stevens himself was also noted for his contributions to Gilligan's Island and Gunsmoke.
One of the retro sound grabs is taken from the trailer to the 1942 horror film, The Ghost of Frankenstein. That film features legendary Wolf Man actor Lon Chaney Jr. as Frankenstein's monster. Unsurprisingly, WhoSampled lists this as the trailer's sole appearance in popular music.
The sample - which occurs at 1:08 on "The Illest Villains" - can be heard at the 38 second mark.
James Whale's Frankenstein, released in 1931, is one of the most influential horror films of all time. It spawned many sequels, one of which was 1942's The Ghost Of Frankenstein. The two samples appear at 0:40 and 1:13.
The other predominant sound grab is taken from a similarly dated horror film, 1957's I Was A Teenage Werewolf. Starring a young Michael Landon, the film would become a cult classic and go on to be spoofed by programs such as Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas and Ferb.
The sample - found at 0:59 on "The Illest Villains" - can be found at 0:24 in the accompanying trailer.
The first song on the record, "Accordion" is a brutal meditation on mortality. Featuring some of the most memorable opening lines of all time, it's a brilliant example of just how well DOOM's dense rhymes gel with Madlib's esoteric, left-of-centre production.
"Accordion" is built atop a pitch-shifted sample of Daedelus' 2002 track, "Experience." Daedelus is a prolific LA-born producer, and in the years since Madvillainy he's collaborated with artists such as DOOM and Busdriver and released two records on Flying Lotus' label, Brainfeeder. Throughout the late 2000s he appeared at L.A.'s Low End Theory, a weekly experimental hip hop club that also launched the careers of Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing.
"Meat Grinder" begins bombastically, quickly slipping into a hypnotic bass-heavy funk complete with surf-rock guitar trills. A relatively simple instrumental, there's only two samples at play.
The track's bizarre opening is taken from "Sleeping In A Jar," a 1969 track by Californian experimental rock group The Mothers of Invention. Fronted by Frank Zappa, who'd intended to release the album as a soundtrack to an unfinished science fiction film, the band produced visionary rock music, utilising unorthodox recording techniques and incorporating elements of free jazz and doo wop.
The sample can be heard from 0:27 onward.
An instantly-recognisable sample of multiple elements, Lew Howard & The All Stars' 1975 track "Hula Rock" forms the crux of "Meat Grinder." The languid strings and plodding bassline seemingly invite crate-digging samplers.
Lew Howard remains something of a mystery: most searches direct one to this very song, likely spotlighted by Madlib's distinctive sample.
A moment of comical excess and tongue-in-cheek salutations, "Bistro" is a shoutout track furnished with a slow-burning R&B feel. It's the only bistro where you'll find MC Eiht and Orson Welles sharing each others company.
The bass lick that opens "Bistro" is a savvy edit of the bass lick that opens Atlantic Starr's "Second To None," the track that goes on to underscore DOOM's generous invitation to the "Madvillain Bistro Bed and Breakfast Bar and Grill Cafe Lounge on the water."
Compton legend MC Eiht makes a fleeting appearance, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it vocal sample positioned in the seamless transition between "Bistro" and "Raid."
Taken from "Thuggin It Up," a track off his 1996 sophomore record, Death Threatz, the sample is a brief but bleak admission:
"Bear with me, cause this life is fucked..."
An energetic, upbeat tune, "Raid" is a slightly surreal ride opened by a jazz legend and punctuated by a bouncy keyboard riff.
The distinctive piano introduction is taken from Bill Evans Trio's "Nardis," recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A famous and influential jazz pianist, Evans played on Miles Davis' seminal Kind Of Blue, as well as on Chet Baker's Chet.
"Nardis" was written by Davis in 1958, ten years prior to Evans' live performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The track would eventually come to be affiliated with Evans due to his live renditions.
The upbeat riff that punctuates DOOM's rhymes is taken from Osmar Milito e Quarteto Forma's "América Latina." The catchy riff functions as the song's introduction and hook.
"América Latina" was written and recorded for Brazilian telenovela Selva de Pedra, a show whose single-year run yielded a shocking 243 episodes.
The recurring sample of seemingly distorted vocals is taken from the close of George Clinton's "Computer Games," the title track off his acclaimed solo debut. Released in 1982, the year after Clinton first disbanded both Parliament and Funkadelic, it found the P-Funk legend leaning into the rising popularity of techno.
Check out the sample at 6:29.
"America's Most Blunted"
Featuring an appearance from Quasimoto, Madlib's emceeing alter ego, "America's Most Blunted" is a chaotic and hilarious ode to marijuana and the duo's smoking prowess. It also contains an unbelievable eighteen samples and interpolations. Let's break them down.
The drums, bass and guitar riff that runs throughout the track is taken from Fever Tree's "Ninety-Nine and One Half." A cover of an original by Wilson Pickett, the track was included on their self-titled debut, a record that experimented with both psychedelia and pop-rock.
Despite some commercial and critical success, Fever Tree disbanded in 1970, becoming little more than a footnote in musical history.
The first sound you hear on "America's Most Blunted" is also the first sound you hear on The Dramatics' "In The Rain" - a burst of vibrant thunder echoing. A Detroit-based soul group, The Dramatics achieved initial success with "In The Rain," a single from their debut album.
The voice in the piece is Daniel Hamm, one of the Six wrongly held for eight years. He says "I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them," recalling how he
convinced the police that he'd been beaten in jail.
Sun Ra's second appearance is a fleeting one: Madlib plunders a single sound from "Atlantis," a 21-minute track from the 1969 album of the same name.
An avant-garde jazz record, the title track took up the entirety of the b-side. "Atlantis" is an early use of the Hoehner clavinet, an instrument oft-affiliated with Stevie Wonder.
The voice that proudly professes "America's Most Blunted" is neither Madlib nor DOOM - it's Phil Da Agony, a member of underground West Coast collective Strong Arm Steady. The group, once led by Xzibit, pioneered mixtape culture on the West Coast. The group signed with Talib Kweli in 2007.
Madlib takes two samples from Leaders Of The New School's "Spontaneous" - one can be found at 0:55, and the other at 4:26. They play in quick succession on "America's Most Blunted," starting at 2:05.
Leaders Of The New School were an East Coast hip hop group most famous for introducing the world to Busta Rhymes. As Busta's solo career blossomed, LOTNS disbanded and the other members fell into relative obscurity.
Leaders Of The New School are sampled yet again, with Madlib stringing another track to the two-bar sample chain. Whilst both preceding bars are taken from "Spontaneous," the sample at 2:08 is plundered from "Classic Material," a cut from the same album.
This fleeting vocal sample finds Busta Rhymes spitting half a bar, hardly audible behind Madlib's wall of sound: "... as you face the universal."
The high-pitched voice at 0:56 of "America's Most Blunted" isn't Quasimoto, as one might think, but is a sample of the intro to Redman's 2001 single, "Let's Get Dirty."
Whilst the track was moderately successful, "Let's Get Dirty" is largely remembered as the prototype for Christina Aguilera's "Drrty," on which Redman featured. That track was more successful, peaking at #48 on the Billboard 100.
If you listen very closely to the Madvillain cut, you can hear Melvin Van Peebles holler "I done tried to tell you!" at 2:40. Though barely audible, this sample is taken from Van Peebles' 1969 debut, a spoken-word album that's since been credited as an influence on early hip hop. Whilst it adds very little of material to the track, Madlib's inspired soundbite pays tribute to a hip hop forefather.
Onetime Organized Konfusion member Pharoahe Monch contributes a fraction of a bar to "America's Most Blunted," with Madlib lifting a lyric from "The Light," a track off his lauded 1999 debut, Internal Affairs. "The Light" was one of two singles taken from that album, the other being the legendary Godzilla-sampling "Simon Says."
At 0:50, Monch's voice can be heard spitting "me rhythm now, huh." That fragment can be found at 1:43 in "The Light."
That track was a minor hit for Flush, its commercial success mirroring the critical praise heaped upon the debut. His career soon tempered out with the underwhelming 2005 release of his sophomore album, Street Boss. Madlib samples Royal Flush at 0:06.
A sample of Fat Boys' "Human Beat Box" appears at 1:51 and 2:01, though it's the first incidence that's most recognisable. It's used by Madlib to punctuate DOOM's claims that weed can improve ones "rhymes, flow or beatbox." The Fat Boys were a successful hip hop trio throughout the 80s, appearing on television and even recording a theme for Nightmare on Elm Street IV. Alongside Doug E. Fresh, Fat Boys member Darrell Robinson helped pioneer beatboxing as an art form.
Undoubtedly the most sought-after samples are the slices of mock-educational marijuana commentary utilised in the track's outro. These are taken from three tracks on the same comedy album, 1971's A Child's Garden Of Grass.
Disneyland Records' "Acting Out The ABCs" seems an unlikely sample source, but Madlib has already shown his penchant for the esoteric.
Madlib pulls a single line of dialogue from the 1962 release. It plays at 0:52 on "America's Most Blunted" - "if you'll all gather close around the photograph..."
Hardly the first artist to interpolate their own lyrics, Quasimoto lifts lines from the 2003 track "React" from his collaborative album with legendary producer J Dilla. Quas says "when you try to react" at 2:49 on "America's Most Blunted." J Dilla died from a cardiac arrest just three days after releasing Donuts, his highly acclaimed sophomore album.
At just under a minute and a half, "Sickfit" is one of the shorter tracks on the album. It's also one of just three instrumentals, and one of two songs that incorporates just a single sample.
A brassy number filled with drawl, "Rainbows" borrows from the unlikely pair of Russ Meyers and James Brown.
"Rainbows" takes more than just a cue from "Kelly," a track from the Finders Keepers, Lover Weepers OST. Directed by legendary sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer, 1968's Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers is a cavalcade of sex, violence and exploitation.
The track incorporates another sample from the same Russ Meyer compilation, this time lifting "Psycho Brahmin" from the Motorpsycho OST. "Rainbows'" epic, horn-fuelled outro is definitely cinematic. Though Bert Shefter and Paul Sawtell composed the score for the 1965 film, they elected to go uncredited for their contributions. Shefter and Sawtell remain best known for their scoring of The Fly trilogy, the first of which was famously remade by David Cronenberg in 1986.
The voice behind the "come on!" at 0:02 is none other than James Brown himself. It's taken from the introduction to "Blues and Pants," the opening track on 1971's Hot Pants. Though that was already his 37th studio album, Brown would go on to record 63 before his death in 2006.
Some publications, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, claim that Brown is the most sampled artist in hip hop. Find this particular sample at 0:09.
"Curls" is a single-sample affair, an oddity on Madvillainy. It's a credit to Waldir Calmon, whose instrumental track brilliantly underpins the entire song.
"Curls" employs two samples of Waldir Calmon's "Airport Love Theme." Calmon - a Brazilian pianist and composer - has a Portuguese Wikipedia page. Though poorly translated by Google, it seems that Calmon was a successful musician and nightclub owner who pioneered rhythmic dance music.
"Airport Love Theme" was released in 1970 as the opening track to Waldir Calmon E Seus Multisons. Find the two samples at 1:24 and 1:32.
"Do Not Fire!"
"Do Not Fire!" is a fifty-three second skit loaded with samples. It borrows heavily from both 1970s Bollywood scores and Street Fighter II sound effects, also borrowing elements from Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
The looped strings played throughout "Do Not Fire!" are taken from Maha Chor, a 1976 Indian action-comedy film. The film was scored by Rahul Dev Burman, one of Bollywood's foremost composers, who scored 331 films before his death in 1994.
The second Rahul Dev Burman sample on "Do Not Fire!" is taken from the opening of "Koi Maane Ya Na Maane," a duet from the 1971 Bollywood drama Adhikar. Madlib inserts it at 0:34, a brief five bar loop in a fleeting interlude.
The third Bollywood sample is not taken from the works of Dev Burman, instead co-opting Lata Mangeshkar's "Purab Disha Se Pardeshi Aaya." It originally appeared in the 1973 action-fantasy film Suraj Aur Chanda. Fittingly, Dev Burman and Mangeshkar were frequent collaborators.
Madlib lifts the bombastic opening and uses it to kickstart "Do Not Fire!"
The first of Madlib's two Street Fighter samples are owed to the character Dhalsim from Street Fighter II. When the game was released in 1991, Dhalsim was a then-newly introduced character in the Street Fighter series.
Two sound effects are sampled: one, nigh-indecipherable, occurs at 0:10, whilst the other, "yoga fire, yoga flame!", can be heard at 0:27. They both recur throughout "Do Not Fire!"
Two more sound effects are taken from 1994's Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: they can be heard at 2:37 and 2:40 in the accompanying sound effect test video.
These effects appear as the high-pitched yelling in the background of the opening, occurring between 0:01 and 0:03.
One of the most obvious samples across all of Madvillainy is that of Vincent Price. Madlib lifts the iconic actor's menacing laugh from "Thriller" and places it amongst the collage of sound, slotting it into "Do Not Fire" around 0:08.
Skillet, Leroy and Lawanda are perhaps the strangest of the seven samples in "Do Not Fire!" Madlib plunders "Slack Jawed Leroy," a track off their 1972 underground comedy album, Back Door Daddy, turning Leroy's bellowing voice into another fleeting soundbite within the track's dense soundscape.
The halfway point is "Money Folder," one of the album's more lyrically aggressive cuts. Dominated by a sharp drum fill and the accompanying synthesizer, it's a chance for DOOM to stretch his legs.
The "old jazz standard" flipped by Madlib at 0:34 is Freddie Hubbard's "Soul Turnaround," a track off his 1969 album A Soul Experiment. A famed jazz trumpeter in his own right, Hubbard collaborated with titans such as George Benson, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Oscar Peterson throughout his five-decade career.
The second Vincent Prince sample in as many tracks, Madlib lifts dialogue from the 1963 horror-comedy, The Raven. That film starred Price alongside famed horror star Boris Karloff and character actor Peter Lorre, best known for his appearances in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and Fritz Lang's M.
The sample can be found at 1:38 in the accompanying trailer, though it appears at 2:55 in "Money Folder."
"Money Folder" contains a lyrical interpolation from DOOM himself, lifting bars from Boogie Down Productions' 1987 track, "South Bronx." The lyrics are owed to a young KRS-One, who would release the seminal "Sound of da Police" six years later.
At 1:27 on "South Bronx," he raps: "KRS-One is the holder of the boulder / Money folder..."
DOOM's second interpolation is taken from New Testament. Opening the track on a biblical note, he raps: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..."
It's a reference to The Gospel of John, Chapter 8, Verse 7, in which Jesus spares an adulterer from a stoning.
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