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Madlib Chops the Rock on Underwhelming ‘Rock Konducta Vol. 2’

SPIN Rating: 5 of 10
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Label: Madlib Invazion

Otis Jackson Jr. isn’t out of ideas, no way. The 40 year-old producer, record collector and dispenser of annual beat tapes operates like a subscription service, churning out content such as his nine-year Beat Konducta series and The Madlib Medicine Show, which explored everything from Brazilian samples to “Advanced Jazz.” He’s already helmed one of the year’s best rap albums, Piñata, with Freddie Gibbs, and Rock Konducta is his newest excursion. In pillaging a clutch of “rock” samples, from Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park” to National Lampoon’s That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick, the album draws lines between ’70s rock, synth-prog and all manner of ephemera. The resulting two discs of the sophomore volume aren’t very rocklike, nor are the samples particularly illuminating as hip-hop constructions the way Madlib dazzlingly conceived Indian music on Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4. They’re not too recognizable—without help from Shazam anyway—but much of the music here sounds errantly familiar.

So this double-disc library dig is one long Möbius strip of sonic half-memories and occasionally arresting riffs (particularly the squealing fiddle-blues of “Teapot”) that, as Madlib prefers them, are strung together bead by prematurely fading bead (or donut by donut, hint) rather than woven into one dreamy phantasmagoria. It’s not a tough listen but it never really coagulates in the ear like his best work. Madlib’s great trick has always been finding a brilliant rapper to create the flow for him, juxtaposing his disjointed collages against the rhymes of a DOOM or Freddie Gibbs, guys who spit like they could keep walking over water if they don’t look down. The inconsequential-sounding Rock Konducta feels more for clients than fans, most of whom won’t be bothered to look up and see which of these 52 mostly-sub-two-minute tracks is catching their ear every several minutes. This is a mixtape you have to make a mixtape from.