Rappers teaming up with other rappers is a fairly common thing, but producers collaborating with other producers is the type of shit that doesn't happen every day. J-Dilla (Slum Village, A Tribe Called Quest, Common) and Madlib (Quasimoto, Yesterday's New Quintet, Dudley Perkins) have defined, to some degree, the indie hip-hop sound of their respective hometowns, Detroit and Los Angeles. The two have distinctly different approaches, but their collaborative effort, Champion Sound, could be just the pimp-slap hip-hop needs to get over its artistically challenged hump.
The juxtaposition of Madlib's unorthodox arrangements and J-Dilla's minimalist funk could have been like oil and water; instead, it's more like guacamole and chips. No mere collector's curio, Champion Sound represents a historic meeting of two musically gifted (if overly weeded) minds who reshape hip-hop's sonic landscape while giving a humorous, knowing nod to its familiar clichés. More party-oriented than typically morose emo-hop, the album stops well short of the excesses of thug rap. Dismissing "fake gangsters" while simultaneously upholding their own playa status, Jaylib gets crunk without getting ignorant on tracks like "The Red," "Official," and "Heavy," while guest MC Talib Kweli delivers "Raw Shit" as advertised.
The obvious downside of a production-driven album is that the music is much stronger than the lyrics. Both principals contribute vocals, but Madlib's helium-voiced alter-ego Quasimoto is a gimmick best served sparingly, and J-Dilla is no threat to Eminem or even Royce da 5'9" on the mic. But who cares? It's all about the ill tracks, and Champion Sound will have the competition crying "Murderer!"
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