Madlib Meets 1 Of His Biggest Influences & You’ve Never Heard Of Him
“Madlib The Bad Kid,” as he introduces himself in the video below, is one of only a handful of producers from this generation who can be credited with shaping modern Hip-Hop music. Noisey recently released a special titled Madlib’s Medicine Show in which the Oxnard, California beat chief meets a musician he holds in high regard and has sampled numerous times, Ayaléw Mesfin. The Ethiopian Funk artist recorded thousands of songs in the 1970s, but very few ever made it to the United States.
The gentleman sitting on the couch next to Madlib during the intro segment is Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, the founder of Stones Throw’s subsidiary Now-Again Records. This digger extraordinaire is considered one of the foremost experts on Rare Groove the world over. He stresses the value of using samples to create musical education, even through changing trends and legalities within music. Da Beat Konducta mentions that he and Egon have been working in tandem for 20 years. Both men express a need to shed light on unsung talents. Lord Quas states, “You need to know your history so you know the future. There’s are a lot of people who were better than the mainstream artists. If you like my music, then you’re gonna have to go study my samples. Even I study [the artists I sample], ’cause that’s where it comes from.”
Egon, who was part of the leadership at Stones Throw throughout the 2000s, explains that Ethiopian Funk from the 1970s is not something US listeners really knew about until the Éthiopiques reissue series in the 1990s. And although Ayaléw Mesfin had only a single song on Vol. 8 of the series, Rare Groove collectors took note. Egon goes on to detail how friends digging in Ethiopia and a connection to an African airline steward eventually helped them get a hold of a good cross section of Mesfin’s catalog. These records were then sampled by ‘Lib, as well as his brother Oh No.
Egon and Madlib recall meeting Mesfin and finding the archives that he had impeccably stored. Egon emphasizes the “impossible to find” aspect of the music library, while Madlib describes the previously unknown of relics as “a producer’s dream, a sampling man’s dream.” The Loop Digga finally meets this icon and greets him with a warm embrace. He compliments him on his “dirty” Funk and explains the parallels he sees to the music he makes with broken equipment.
Mesfin then speaks about being imprisoned when the communist Derg regime overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1975. He was forced to stop making music in exchange for his release. However, he is now a citizen of the US, and he managed to transport all his 45s and master reels intact. Further, he agreed to perform at a Now-Again event to protest of an atrocity that had recently occurred in his hometown. An emotional embrace from the crowd is shown in the closing minutes of the documentary. Once a voice of the people, always a voice of the people.
Last year, Madlib, Blu, and MED collaborated as Bad Neighbor for The Turn Up.