Monday, June 16, 2008

Go, Check It: Yesterdays Universe (2007)

Brilliance is not the trail that an artist blazes, but rather the followers who travel it. Released during summer 2007, Yesterdays New Quintet's Yesterdays Universe fits perfectly into this idea. This release from Stones Throw Records is perhaps one of the most important albums of the decade. The mastermind behind this record is the polymorphous, alt-rap artist Madlib, the man who, as alter ego Quasimoto, laid down hip-hop classics like 2000's The Unseen and 2005's The Further Adventures of Lord Quas. Here, over the course of 15 tracks, Madlib lays down the blueprint for 21st-Century jazz fusion. It's none of that schmaltzy, smooth jazz junk. It's the perfect blend of jazz and hip-hop, taking the rich, modal sounds of Miles Davis' late '60s quintet and merging them with the electronic flourishes of RUN-DMC and Afrika Bambaataa. Crisp, ?uestlove-esque drums collide and coalesce with a laid-back, Jimmy Smith-like organ. It's a jazz record that kicks like hip-hop. In the '60s and '70s, this balance of a jazzy sound with modern sensibilities (rock n roll) created some of the most dynamic fusion records in music. And artists like Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Freddie Hubbard were quick to explore this newfound terrain. However, in the 2000s, in this current atmosphere of party rap and snap music, the mainstream doesn't take a second glance at this album, thinking it's just some artsy, alternative crap. Madlib's little masterpiece will probably have to wait a little longer for people to catch on. But people will catch on, and hindsight will laugh and say "I told you so." Cop this classic!