We love… that raw shit! We take a look at Jaylib’s Champion Sound.
When you have an album featuring two of the best hip hop producers of 00s (at LEAST), that’s something you take notice of. The Jaylib collaboration started out in 2000 when Madlib was given a CD of unreleased Dilla beats by J Rocc. He rapped over them, under the name Jaylib, and left it at that, not thinking it would ever get released. However, Stones Throw had other ideas and put a track on one of Madlib’s singles, under the Jaylib moniker. Naturally, Dilla heard it, liked it, and got together with Madlib to put together an official release.
What was different about their recording process was the fact that they rarely shared a studio together. The production and vocals were split between the two of them; Madlib bars over Dilla beats and vice versa. Madlib had his “Bomb Shelter” in Cali and Dilla did his work back in Detroit. Whenever they did share a room together, they “communicated in grunts” as Peanut Butter Wolf so eloquently put it (Jaylib clearly adhering to the Mies van der Rohe aphorism, “Less is more”).
The album finally dropped in 2003 after delays due to leaks and bootlegging. That didn’t stop the positive reviews, though. What came out of the distance of their work ethic was a paradoxical closeness in beats and rhymes. The lyricism wasn’t going to set the world alight, but they weren’t looking to release iambic pentameter in hip hop form. This was the meeting of two producers at the top of their game, in all their lo-fi, bass-heavy, beat-crazy splendour. The album opened with a sample that would later feature on Dilla’s final album, Donuts, leading into a hi-hat shuffling hip hop anthem featuring vocal help from Frank-N-Dank.
Some of the best highlights were where the beats really stood out over the rhymes – The Red was expertly executed by Dilla, flipping a folk song no producer would have looked twice at and doing it so well, with a catchy piano and bass accompaniment. Heavy lived up to its name thanks to the thumping bass of the Herman Chin Loy sample. A personal favourite was Survival Test for the head-bobbing quality of the drums, which never seemed to get boring.
If you were hoping for either producer to be on their rapping A-game, this might disappoint you but if you expected crazy beats and dope sample flips, congratulations! Due to Dilla’s illness, which worsened as the album was going through its promotional stage until Dilla’s passing in 2006, there weren’t any more collaborations between the two, apart from Baby on the posthumous album, The Shining. This was the meeting of two great hip hop talents and a rare glimpse into what can happen when introverts in an extroverted style of music put their heads together to make nothing but the music they loved.