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Theme for a Broken Soul

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Album Review

Some styles, like hip-hop or funk, have the type of global appeal that allows for contributions from strangers of all locales. Broken beat, the fusion of next-level breakbeat and, well, jazz fusion, doesn't cotton well to outsiders. That's not because of evil temperaments among its producers (most are genuinely nice blokes), but because the sound evolves quickly and is only genuinely nailed by a few West London producers — nine or ten of whom have used the Wu-Tang-like umbrella of Bugz in the Attic for some of their recordings. Although the majority of broken beat fans won't recognize the name DJ Rels, millions of rap fans know him for his common aliases: Yesterday's New Quintet, Quasimoto, and most famously, Madlib. (While the press releases all but admit it's Madlib, the credits are less clear, ascribing each track to the previously unknown D. Relmond.) It's clear even from a glance at the notes that Madlib knows as much about broken beat as he does jazz, which forms the backbone of his hip-hop work. Inside he name-checks all the best broken beat artists — 4hero and Seiji, Domu and IG Culture — with a revealing preface to his shoutouts ("With respect to:" ). It may be uncomfortable for fans of Madlib, who's been one of hip-hop's prime post-millennial innovators, to find him jumping aboard an obscure bandwagon at this late date, but truth to tell, it's no great leap. Madlib's fractured production style dovetails nicely with the disconnected polyrhythms of broken beat, and both have looked back to the gleaming production finesse of the '70s CTI and Blue Note catalogs (though each has diverged from there). Madlib is surprisingly faithful here, each track sounding like it could be inserted on a broken beat mix album with few problems. Little character, to be sure, but solid results.


Born: 1974 in Oxnard, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s

DJ Rels is yet another moniker for the prolific and imaginative Madlib (aka Otis Jackson, Jr.), although the notes off his 2004 debut album, Theme for a Broken Soul, do credit work to a "J. Relmond." Madlib created DJ Rels after having gone to London's Co-op Club and hearing the broken beat scene there (in fact, he is often compared to West Londoners Seiji and Bugz in the Attic). His first 12" single, "Diggin in Brownswood," came out in...
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