Madlib & Oh No’s Album Shows That Making Great Hip-Hop Is Their Family Business

The Brothers Jackson have blessed listeners with one-off tracks for years now. Ever since 2008 on Madlib’s WLIB AM: King Of The Wigflip, the two Oxnard, California natives have teamed up as a killer producer-rapper combo. Late last year, Otis Jackson, Jr. shared word that he and his younger brother Michael would be making a full-length together, at long last.

Ahead of this month’s full-length release (embedded below as a playlist), Madlib and Oh No shared the lead single “Superhumans,” which also featured Elzhi and Chino XL. With the project out now (via Madlib Invazion) — the sample-heavy beats, 1970s film drops, and percolating percussion make this one to have on deck for those who are extremely well-versed as a Hip-Hop head. The duo’s appeal to crate-digging fans is only probably matched by those who have an affinity for repurposed movie dialogue. The Professionals does play it safe in ways where some of their tag team partnerships (Freddie Gibbs, Blu, Alchemist) may differ.

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With The Professionals as a tailored fit for his younger brother, the bulk of this album is jam-packed with delicious production. Soulful loops, boxy drum patterns, chunky keys, and keen scratches showcase the brother’s unique blend of conceptual and topical tracks. The LP does enough justice to keep you wanting more in all the right ways. A heavyweight moment on the project comes with “Made Due,” which delivers a bit of nostalgia.

Oh No, riffing on a “Life’s A B*tch”-inspired line, implores people to place their last dollar into their faith (“a breakthrough”) rather than the fleeting hope of hitting the lottery. Madlib’s D.I.T.C. routine scoffs at those trying to locate the song’s origins through online sample databases. “I put that last book of scratches, tryna get a little luck / But alas, I’d seen that that bit of scratch wasn’t sh*t coming up,” Oh No rhymes confidently.

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“Timeless Treasure” is a procrastinator’s nightmare in audio form. The metronomic ticking through the song gives impatient listeners a reason to rejoice as Oh No gives his all before the seconds on the 3:45 song runs out. When we ride into the second verse, the other Oxnard artist provides timely commentary on healthcare costs. “F*ck it then / I’ll just die in the crib with this cheeseburger—McLovin’ it,” he rhymes.

Even with Elzhi fitting comfortably in the pocket on “Superhumans,” it may be the closing song on the 44-minute project, “Dishonored Valor, which takes home the “Best Song” award. Zoning in on the struggles of being a part of the United States military and then trying to reintegrate into modern civilian life, Oh No describes the pain of PTSD and the debilitating reliance on pharmaceuticals. “I know some dealers out the military, I know some dealers out the military / So you can be all that you wanna be / You can be a drug dealer, thug ni**a, born killer / See, you can be all that wanna be,” he raps on the hook, describing the need of health and help while fighting for one’s country.

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The tale proves that Oh No is the perfect counterbalance to his brother’s dank guitar hits and flustering snares. Two decades of work doesn’t make this Gangrene co-founder sound aged at all on “Dishonored Veteran.” “I got a gang of brothers that was in the military that was honorably discharged / Really wasn’t cut like ‘Rambo’ when the sh*t starts / I don’t blame ’em, I would have been right there smoking weed, too / F*ck flying up in [the] sky, diving out of [a] B-2,” he shares.

The Professionals is an early addition to what hopefully becomes a fun new year in Hip-Hop.

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Madlib & Freddie Gibbs’ was recently named to Ambrosia For Heads‘ Best Albums Of 2019 as well our 25 Best Albums Of The 2010s list.