The Unseen - Quasimoto - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #89

There aren’t too many genres in which you could not only get away with making something as bizarre and esoteric as The Unseen, but to be applauded and rewarded for it. Yes, one of hip hop’s greatest modern producers Madlib came onto the solo scene back in 2000 with one of the most thoroughly bonkers albums the genre has ever seen, yet I’ll be the first to admit that something about it is simply irresistible. Supposedly conceived and recorded during a week-long binge on magic mushrooms, every song on this warped record gives you a hazy vision of Madlib’s experience, like gazing through a fog into the doorway of his mind, like pursuing him down the rabbit hole in the wake of his psychedelic ramblings.


Quasimoto is Madlib’s alias/alter ego, for those that thought I had lost the plot already. But thanks to some technological ingenuity, Quasimoto isn’t just another superfluous rapper’s name, (ie Puff Daddy/Diddy/whatever he goes by these days) it’s a truly new creation, the doped-up split personality of Madlib. Some clever pitch-shifting in the studio created Quasimoto from Madlib’s voice, and his high pitched, drugged out raps are the star of the album, although bizarrely enough the real Madlib pops up every now and then and interacts with his alter-ego. Confused yet? You should be. On top of that, the lyrics are highly idiosyncratic, stream-of-consciousness yarns that cover a wide range of territory despite not really being about anything. Lyrics appear and disappear just as quickly, verses drop in the middle of tracks you expected to be instrumentals, and reflect the drugged out, hazy state in which this album was composed. Bizarrely threatening, (“Now I'm a soldier in the town drinking Butterfly Snapple/I walk around the streets passing out poisoned apples”) with shoutouts to his favourite musicians and mere descriptions of his doped up antics, The Unseen isn’t pro-drug or anti-drug, it’s not designed to be nightmarish or appealing, it’s merely a representation of the surreal, disjointed experience of Madlib, and I imagine a fairly accurate one. The music takes unexpected turns, combining some curious vocal samples with smooth beats; heavy on the bass with loose, trippy drums and unexpected changes of pace. The artificiality of the production is self-evident, yet it never lacks warmth and intrigue and doesn’t distance the listener from the overall experience… you always feel right there in the thick of it, and if you lose yourself you’ll start to feel a little drugged up yourself. So why does this make it good? Why should I be recommending this to you? Well, in the words of the late (and very great) Roger Ebert, “anything that partakes of human life in a truthful way is going to help me in some way or another,” and The Unseen, although often frivolous and juvenile, represents what I feel is a lifestyle that people do experience, and understanding this is going to help me empathize, understand and communicate with these people, should I ever meet them. And in a slightly less noble conclusion, it’s quite simply a very entertaining, surprising and challenging record, one that is far removed from normal hip hop conventions and offers an extremely fresh approach to the genre. Like it or not, but you can’t ignore it.
Words – Adam.

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