Complex Gives An Inside Look at the Mad Mind Behind Madlib

Mahlik Campbell music /

One of the best albums of 2019 was Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's Bandana. It's the result of two of hip-hop's most seasoned players coming together to create a one of a kind, multi-faceted journal filled with insight on everything from rapping and drug dealing to contemporary art, politics and racism. After meshing their tastes for many years prior, Freddie (rapper) and Madlib (producer) find themselves in a soundscape fitting for a violent, urban Western film, where dirt roads, horses and cowboy hats are replaced by one-way streets, vintage Porsches and trunks filled with cocaine and jewelry.

Freddie's firsthand account of his ambitious adventures stretching across the conflicted landscape of America –"Obama got elected today, and I got arrested" – is brought out by the eclectic yet consistent production of Madlib. “It's a mesh of my weird underground world and his gangster hood stuff,” according to Madlib. Given the sophisticated sampling of what seems to be an entire orchestra – keys, horns, acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, raw drums – you'd never guess he made all the music on an iPad. “For the last seven or eight years, everything's been on an iPad,” Madlib said.

The fact that he's able to do so much with so little gives you an idea of his genius.

Madlib sat down with Complex for a very rare interview to discuss being named the Best Hip-hop Producer Alive in 2019, his relationship with Freddie Gibbs, the making of Bandana, not sleeping for days at a time, collaborations with Pusha-T and Kanye West, and more. He's pretty reserved at times and you can tell he doesn't love doing interviews, but given his extensive impact on underground hip-hop – production for MF DOOM, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, etc. – rap fans deserve an inside look at the mad mind behind Madlib. 😲

Enjoy the 12-minute conversation below.