Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quasimoto - The Unseen (2000)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

It's a shame that your imagination never really matches the rampant power it contains when you're a kid. Before you've learned everything you can about the world and before you develop any clear definition of reality, your hyper-sensitive mind is capable of running wild with creativity. That's why so many toddlers have imaginary friends. Most will decry it as an adolescent obsession with fantasy, but I see it as more of an exhibition of the true creativity kids have before they grow old, mature and lose that essential spark of inventiveness.

The origin of Madlib's imaginary friend and moniker, a pig nosed yellow hippo named Quasimoto, is probably attributed to the fact that he (supposedly) recorded this album in the midst of a week-long binge on shrooms. But the true drug of choice is weed; The Unseen is the most blunted haze of an album since Cypress Hill's glory days. The lyrical content is abundant with stoner jargon and sentiments while Quasimoto's helium-induced delivery is as bored and listless as potheads get. Plus the lines themselves are pretty sluggish and weak on their own - it sounds like one too many spliffs have been smoked. Meanwhile, Madlib's beats are deliberately subdued and disorienting, filled with faint loops and understated touches that usually reveal themselves when listened to in altered states of mind, and the nature of the tracks cater directly to ADD patients, running extremely short and abruptly cutting out or changing completely. All cannabis culture nods aside though, Madlib and his demented alter ego have crafted a twinkling collection of smooth jazz-rap beats; sort of a twisted update of A Tribe Called Quest. Yes, there's plenty of druggy "what-the-fuck?" excursions ("Astro Travellin" and "Come On Feet", which has Madlib and Quas lazily struggling to encourage their feet to not fall asleep), but there's also sublimely soulful ballads ("MHBs"), chill elevator music grooves ("Axe Puzzles", "The Unseen"), tributes to Madlib's obscure Jazz record collection ("Jazz Cats Pt.1", "Return Of The Loop Digga"), hard hitting faux-battle raps ("Put A Curse On You", "Boom Music") and, in true Q-Tip and Phife Dawg fashion, countless down to earth criticisms of accepted hip hop stereotypes ("Real Eyes", "Bluffin").

The Unseen is so impressive because by reverting to his inner-childish self, Madlib has released a plethora of surging creativity; a collage of ideas spanning in all sorts of directions, overlapping and colliding with the attention span of gas molecules. For that same reason it can be a strange listen, with nothing really pulling the jarring samples, off-kilter rhymes and fragments together into a cohesive whole. However, the best way to understand Quasimoto is to listen to him through the perception of his creator. In other words, as Madlib kindly suggests on "Return Of The Loop Digga," "Throw this record on, pack a bowl, take a hit."

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