I’ve been stuck on this review for weeks now. Madlib’s “Beat Konducta” moniker is one he uses to release mountains of themed hip-hop beats. Past installments include “Movie Scenes” (A film score for a Blaxploitation film existing solely in Madlib’s mind), “Beat Konducta in India”, and “A Tribute to…” (J Dilla). These releases seem completely targeted towards serious hip-hop and world music heads, and “Beat Konducta in Africa” is no different.
In fact, this is the first Madlib Medicine Show release that has seriously challenged me. Part of it is the 43 (!) tracks the album is divided into, part of it is the schizophrenic use of spoken word audio clips, but I can’t for the life of me get through this monster in one sitting. The music is interesting enough, using samples from popular African songs and coming from regional genres such as juju, highlife, afrobeat, and African flavored jazz and funk. Madlib provides his usual woozy production style with lots of fade ins/outs. If you listen to this with headphones you will likely loose your sense of equilibrium.
The most frustrating thing about this record is I can’t decide where someone would listen to it. First I thought it would be good background party music, but there is too much random talking in the album for that. Then I thought about while exercising, but the album doesn’t really maintain any sort of intensity that would work in that context. Driving? Like I mentioned earlier, the amount of spoken word stuff makes this seem like an NPR broadcast at times.
As soon as a song starts building towards something it cuts into something else, which can be frustrating if you’re looking for a more cohesive experience. Songs like “Blackfire” contain amazing polyrhythmic drumming and instrumentation but it takes over a minute of talking to get there. My favorite moments on the album are the closing “bonus” (they’re on every version of the album) songs titled A, F, R, I, C, and A (Amanaz) These tracks stick primarily to the music and are some of the longest pieces on the record.
What I come up with after giving this record chance after chance is this: Volume 3 of the Medicine Show is mostly for long time fans and for people looking for a different perspective on African music. Madlib releases an INSANE amount of music, you don’t have to love it all but why not at least give it a shot?