With producer Madlib, the ambidextrous producer who can bold mold and sculpt from the most classy resources of the mind; his 2003 project Shades Of Blue is a music historians love that clashes with bold renditions. Primarily a remix album that constructs the backing, Madlib on Shades Of Blue is astonishing from the first moments when “Slim’s Return” hits the wax.
It doesn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary for Madlib, but here he is a commander of rhythm and sound that interferes with the technicality of production. The sampling here alone on just “Slim’s Return” is enough food to last a week on dissecting the intricacies of Madlib’s design.
Listening with headphones that have a solid bass kick are almost essential here as Madlib spins the upright bass chords and designs some artistic flair to the entire mixing process that gives some knowledge behind the sound. Featuring musicians and narrators who illustrate the history of Blue Note Records, it almost is a learning experience as much as it is an exciting outburst from a producer who gave the public some of the illest ideas this side of the modern century.
It’s hard to hear some blue note jazz samples and to not think of KMD or MF DOOM who makes an appearance on the always stunning “Stepping Into Tomorrow.” Firstly, the instrumentation here is enough to get the neck in a constant state of motion, but then, Madlib uses vocal samples from Donald Byrd that are sped up to create a whole new vibration. Simply beautiful arrangements come from how Madlib can transition in the intro from DOOM and the sampling to almost conform the audience into this subsonic world.
Where such magnificent melodies can lay and reside is also in the following “Song For My Father” that in a mostly instrumental project thrives like a treasure here. Shades Of Blue through Madlib’s invasion of Blue Note Records is in this constant balance of feeling as if it was a jazz record at the helm, but sections of the hip-hop prowess shine through. Like when the addition of an 808 or simple tuning of the note progression makes what felt classic appear shiny once more.
Clutching the vinyl close to the chest like it was a distant lover for the last time, Madlib is careful here and pays tribute to some of the greatest sounds ever pressed to wax. Not only does the mix bring new ears to old projects, but with the overlay of fans for both Madlib or jazz, there isn’t much not to be liked here.