Release Date: Oct 30, 2015
Record label: Bang Ya Head
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Underground Rap
The problem here is simple: good beats, passable rapping. Neither Blu nor Med have the imaginative rhymes of MF DOOM (especially circa 2004) or the tight, trailblazing flow of Freddie Gibbs, or even the humour of Madlib’s alter-ego, Quasimoto. Blu is as reliable as always, but his voice forever remains cadence-less (he was always at the mercy of his producers, which is why the imaginative beats of NoYork! – which also featured Madlib – might be his best album).
With Drake and Future as sitting President and Vice President of Hip Hop (you get to decide who gets to be the bigwig) and strippers recounting their wildest stories on Twitter, it’s easy to miss out on new music from the likes of MED, Blu, or Madlib. But if you missed an album with all of them starring as the leads, you’d also be missing out on beats and bars Drake and Future could appreciate. So hit pause for an hour on Dirty Sprite 2 and What A Time To Be Alive, and let Bad Neighbor rock for a bit.
Following up on their 2013 EP The Burgundy, this full-length collaboration between rappers MED and Blu plus producer Madlib suggests the trio should come up with a group name ASAP. There's so much good chemistry and a sense of purpose on Bad Neighbor that it's easy to see why this crew reunited, and while this is a loose posse effort and not the artistically weighty material fans usually get from the members individually, both MED and Blu's discographies get one their tightest releases to date. Madlib gets the opportunity to jump between the commercial ("Burgundy Whip" from the EP returns with all its smooth soul and sweet singing from Jimetta Rose) and barely harnessed cacophony ("Streets" with Oh No and DJ Romes offers wave after wave of compressed percussion, while the broken beat box called "Birds" sounds like a screwed and chopped remix of the Art of Noise).
Madlib is one of the most accomplished producers of this millennium. His credits range from a co-produced project with the legendary J. Dilla (2003’s Champion Sound) and a classic collab album with MF Doom (2004’s Madvillainy) to last year’s Piñata with Freddie Gibbs. He first linked up with the oft-maligned but technically gifted Blu on the title track to the rapper’s third album, 2011’s j e s u s, and though it wasn’t either artist’s sharpest work — it was under-mixed to boot — it did show signs of promise for future collaborations.
Madlib’s calling card is his ability to spin obscure funk into woozy rap instrumentals. With the lack of precision and attention to mood, they feel out of time and slightly off-kilter, and they fit perfectly with artists like Erykah Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow. Recently though, it seems the Cali composer has reined himself in a bit: 2014’s Piñata had all the grit you'd expect from Madlib, but it was crisper and recessive, allowing more space for Freddie Gibbs' menacing, in-the-pocket flows.