"Jazz Cats Pt. 1"
"Jazz Cats Pt. 1" fittingly samples a swathe of legendary jazz cats. From Hancock to Hubbard, Coltrane to Cannonball, "Jazz Cats Pt. 1" delivers on the titular promise.
The second Hancock sample on "Jazz Cats Pt. 1" is taken from "Oliloqui Valley," another Empyrean Isles cut. It appears at 0:35 on Quas' jazz dedication.
There's no real geographical location named Oliloqui Valley, though music journalist Derek Walmsley offers a particularly interesting take on Hancock's artistry and the meaning underpinning his oft-bizarre titles.
Fittingly, the John Coltrane sample appears just as Lord Quas name drops the acclaimed saxophonist.
"Central Park West" appeared on his 1964 record Coltrane's Sound, released by Atlantic whilst Coltrane himself was on contract to Impulse! Records. Assembled from unreleased recordings and released without any input from the man himself, Coltrane's Sound received glowing reviews.
Cannonball Adderley's "Circumference" fades in at 1:37, just as Lord Quas raps "you probably wouldn't put them to use anyway." This live performance was included on 1971's The Black Messiah, recorded at Los Angeles' Troubadour. One of Adderley's last albums, it features production from Madlib favourite David Axelrod.
Madlib follows us his first Adderley sample with another from the live album. This time, it's a grab from "Eye Of The Cosmos," an original improvisational cut. Funnily enough, Adderley himself refers to his bandmates as "cats" in the track's intro. Adderley's own smooth saxophone appears at 1:53 on "Jazz Cats Pt. 1," a quiet but nonetheless recognisable lick in the background.
The voice that repeats "freedom throughout the universe!" from 2:19 on belongs to Tyrone Washington, a jazz saxophonist. Madlib lifts both the drums and the vocals from the outro to "Universal Spiritual Revolt," the final track on his 1974 album, Do Right. For reasons unknown, Washington never recorded another album. He remains a jazz enigma.
The second of the album's three guest spots comes on "24-7," when frequent Madlib collaborator MED makes an appearance.
Madlib builds an instrumental from pieces of Jacob Miller's 1976 single, "False Rasta." Miller was an emerging reggae artist and close friend of Bob Marley. He recorded nine albums as a part of reggae group Inner Circle, also completing six solo albums before his sudden death in a car crash. Miller, who was 28, was preparing to tour America alongside Marley. Inner Circle would go on to record "Bad Boys," the eventual theme for legendary TV program, Cops.
At 1:07, Madlib lifts the bass from The Dells' 1972 track, "When You're Alone." The song originally appeared on the group's 9th studio album, Sweet As Funk Can Be.
The Dells were an R&B vocal group founded in 1952 by a group of school students. After changing their lineup in 1960, the group remained unchanged until the 2009 death of Johnny Carter. They officially retired in 2012, after six decades.
A jazz pianist and singer, Bey is noted for his powerful vocal performances. Though diagnosed as HIV-positive in '94, Bey has continued recording, becoming more productive and releasing 12 LPs in the years since.
The title track appears late in the record, sampling Madlib favourite David Axelrod and hip hop favourite James Brown. One of the album's more conventional cuts, it finds Lord Quas saluting "the unseen" - underground artists honing their craft despite their lack of renown.
The quiet vocal sample the first appears at 0:08 is taken from Audio Two's classic 1987 track, "Top Billin'." The scratched-upon sample repeats "I got--," sourced from the lyric "I got money, money I got."
The track is best known for the opening beat and the much interpolated chorus: "Milk is chillin', Gizmo's chillin'/What more can I say? Top billin'!"
The beat change at 1:35, which Lord Quas outright asks for, suddenly invokes 1960s psychedelic rock. Madlib samples Moby Grape, a San Franciscan band who experienced commerical and critical success in the mid-to-late '60s. "Boysenberry Jam," the track that appears on "The Unseen," is taken from the group's second album, Wow/Grape Jam.
The band were weighed down by legal disputes that ultimately led to their unfortunate implosion.
Though it almost goes without saying, the voice that yells "get down!" at 1:54 belongs to none other than James Brown, the most sampled artist of all time.
This particular Brown adlib is sourced from "Escape-Ism," a two-part track included on 1971's Hot Pants. The 1992 reissue included a 19-minute unedited studio version of the track, which was apparently recorded "to kill time."
Madlib lifts the much-sampled drum break from Marlena Shaw's "California Soul," a cover included on her 1969 LP, The Spice of Life. The track was originally written by songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, who also wrote hits such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I'm Every Woman."
The funky instrumentation that appears at 2:13 is lifted from the opening to The 9th Creation's "Bubble Gum." The Californian outfit released just three albums between '75 and '79, achieving little commercial success. Despite this, the group are popular amongst funk-inclined hip hop producers.
"Bubble Gum" is the title track from the group's debut LP, released in 1975. It features some truly terrible, era-appropriate album art.
Like tracks "Green Power" and "Good Morning Sunshine," "Phony Game" is indebted to Melvin Van Peebles in more ways than one. Whilst all three of the tracks sample Van Peebles' work, it seems that their titles and content has been directly inspired by those samples. "Phony Game" samples Van Peebles' "The Phoney Game," leaving little doubt as to Madlib's inspiration.
A Melvin Van Peebles sample, but with a difference! Madlib opens the track by borrowing from "The Phoney Game," a song from Van Peebles' 1972 musical, Don't Play Us Cheap. Though Peebles wrote the musical, it contained more traditionally melodic tracks than those included on his preceding solo albums.
The only online version of the track appears in a video exploring Madlib's samples.
The instrumentation that enters at 0:24 is a slowed sample of "Where Do I Go," a track by Dave Wintour and Pat Whitmore. The LP on which the track appeared, The Music And Songs From Hair The Tribal Love Rock Musical, was released just two years after the hit musical debuted off-Broadway. The project was directed by Geoff Love, a well known composer, and gave the musical a sonically psychedelic reimagining.
A mere six tracks after "Astro Black" comes "Astro Travellin," a track similar in name alone. If anything, the reappearance of "Astro" is testament to Lord Quas' taste for Afrofuturistic psychedelia. Madlib furnishes Quas' bars with some impressively esoteric jazz fusion records and, surprisingly, something a little more recognisable.
The crisp drums are lifted from "Laying Eggs," the opening track from PAZ's 1982 record, PAZ Are Back. PAZ were a British jazz fusion group who recorded six LPs over two decades, garnering little in the way of commercial success. The group played an eight-year residency at The Kensington Pub, where they made their name as one of London's finest jazz outfits. "Laying Eggs" - their only track on WhoSampled - has been sampled 11 times.
The sound of sweeping winds that opens "Astro Travellin" is sourced from the opening to The Maze's "Armageddon," the first track on their album of the same name. The San Fransisco psych-rock group cut just one record, seemingly disbanding sometime after that '69 release.
According to one crate digger, the record is both a coveted find and a generally unimpressive listen. Despite this, the album was reissued in 2006.
The track names are in keeping with the album's title: Ariadne was a key character in the myths of Theseus and the Minotaur, and titles such as "Arena" and "Naxos" refer to key locations in the story.
The vocal sample at 0:10 is courtesy of The Dynamics. Madlib takes from "Get Myself High," a track included on the '94 reissue of their successful sophomore album, What A Shame. The record, originally released in '73, peaked at #52 on the Billboard R&B Chart.
In typical Madlib fashion, he samples the vocals as to make a joke: "get high..."
Madlib interpolates a lyric from Lootpack's "Crate Diggin'," a cut off the group's 1998 debut. Unsurprisingly, the referenced lyrics refer to lighting up and smoking some shit.
Quas imitates the melody when he spits "I always keep my weeds on deck, smokin la," which is soon echoed by Madlib himself, who parrots his Lootpack lyrics, saying "yo, anywhere, everywhere, I spark the la."
One of Madlib's least-esoteric vocal samples comes from Nas' "It Ain't Hard To Tell," the final track from his 1994 masterpiece, Illmatic. That track, produced by Large Professor, sampled Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."
The sample first appears at 2:02, in which Nas raps "from the spliff that I lift and inhale." Madlib scratches the sample as the track rides out the instrumental
With the exception of "Welcome to Violence," which opens the album with some kitschy narration, "Blitz" is the shortest track on The Unseen. The just-over-a-minute musical interlude takes instrumentation from a renowned trumpeter and bars from Queensbridge's most revered hip hop duo.
The trumpeting throughout "Blitz" is sampled from Manyard Ferguson's "MacArthur Park." Ferguson was a Canadian trumpeter who recorded prolifically over a sixty-seven year career.
Though an instrumental in a strict sense, Madlib takes vocals from Mobb Deep's classic '95 single, "Survival of the Fittest." That track was included on their breakout sophomore effort, The Infamous, a classic record of the East Coast Renaissance.
The vocals at 0:06 in "Blitz" are sampled from 0:10 in "Survival," and the vocal grab at 0:57 - "that old real shit" - can be heard at 0:16 in Mobb Deep's original.
A slow-burning soul jam underpins "Axe Puzzles," the smooth sincerity of which juxtaposes against Lord Quas' malaria jokes, blot clot punchlines and crazy references.
The sole identified sample on "Axe Puzzles" comes from Mel & Tim's "Keep The Faith," the opening track from their self-titled 1973 LP. The Chicago R&B duo went gold with their debut single, 1969's "Backfield in Motion."
"Discipline 99 Pt. 1"
The final track is a sequel in name only. Whilst "Discipline 99 Pt. 0" featured emcee Mr. Herb, "Pt. 1" features Lootpack member and frequent Madlib collaborator Wildchild. Madlib brings a roster of sampled talent, featuring vocals from acts such as Brand Nubian, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr and Common.
Madlib's first vocal sample is courtesy of Brand Nubian, an Afrocentric East Coast hip hop group. The sample - "as I receive the mic" - is taken from "Word Is Bond," the lead single and opening track from 1994's Everything Is Everything, their third LP.
The group's debut, One For All, received critical acclaim on release, one of the first records to garner a five-mic review from The Source.
The Brand Nubian sample is closely followed by a sample of Busta Rhymes, sourced from his 1996 track, "Live To Regret." The song was included on the soundtrack to Set It Off, an F. Gary Gray heist film starring Queen Latifah. The film released eight months after Busta released his debut solo project, The Coming.
The sampled fragment finds Busta rapping "tell me just what you wanna do!"
The third sample in Madlib's cut-and-paste hook is taken from Big Daddy Kane's legendary "Ain't No Half Steppin'." Produced by Marley Marl and included on his debut, 1988's Long Live The Kane, the track has been counted amongst the greatest rap songs of all time. Kane's influence can be seen in the samples: WhoSampled lists 129 tracks that sample the single.
The second hook begins with Brand Nubian's "Word Is Bond," which makes way for Gang Starr's "Flip The Script." Gang Starr, the duo of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier, has extensive success throughout the '90s. DJ Premier is best known for his work outside the group, and is often considered one of hip hop's greatest producers.
The lyric that Madlib samples finds Guru spitting: "I'm kicking slick ones, until the last one drops."
The classic vocal sample that follows - "yes, yes y'all, and you don't stop" - is taken from the intro to Common's signature hit, 1994's "I Use To Love H.E.R." The ethereal guitar in that track is itself a sample of George Benson's "The Changing World."
Common's track famously uses an extended metaphor to discuss the state of hip hop, which had largely foregone Afrocentrism and conscious content for the G-Funk of Dr. Dre and his affiliates.
Madlib continues by sampling a famous line from a short-lived hip hop supergroup. The D&D All-Stars were Doug E. Fresh, Jeru The Damaja, Fat Joe, KRS-ONE, Smif-N-Wessun and Mad Lion, a swathe of NYC artists who united in 1995 to release a collaborative track. The lyric Madlib samples - "don't stop, get it, get it!" - is a hip hop staple of debated origin, though many point to Uncle Luke's "I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)" as the first occurrence.
The instrumental sample that closes out "Discipline 99 Pt. 1," and The Unseen as a whole, is taken from Maceo Parker "Future Shock (Dance Your Pants Off)." The track was written and produced by James Brown, who would go on to use it as the theme for his 1976 variety show, Future Shock.
110 samples later, here we are. It's a testament to Madlib that he completed such a dense, engaging and psychedelic record in just a single month. The release would come at the start of his career, one of the records that solidified him as a critical darling before the breakout success of Madvillainy in 2004.
Quasimoto would return in 2005, when the duo dropped their sophomore album, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas. It remains their most recent original project: Yessir Whatever, released in 2013, was a compilation of rarities and previously unreleased tracks. When asked whether he'd return to Lord Quas, Madlib teased an eventual comeback: "the shrooms were the stuff that made me do Quasimoto in the first place. Hopefully, I get back on that level where I can finish it." That was in 2013. For now, it seems, Lord Quas is keeping quiet, presumably wandering through suburbia, brick in one hand and blunt in the other.
A huge thanks to the peerless enthusiasts at WhoSampled, without whose help I could never have even thought of undertaking this project.