Madlib – Shades of Blue


For the first record I write about, I thought it would make sense to do the first album that I ever got on wax. I started collecting vinyl about 3 years ago after buying Madlib’s Shades of Blue. I had been getting into Madlib’s work for a few years before this and at the time Shades of Blue was probably my favorite instrumental album. I remember thinking about collecting records for a while at this time, especially since Stones Throw as a label was always very friendly to those still rocking wax (with almost every album getting released and the limited/special edition type stuff that is vinyl only). I ended up looking at eBay for Madlib stuff and noticed a cheap brand new copy of this album. I think I paid around $11 shipped, which is actually quite cheap for a brand new record shipped to me. Ever since that day I have continued to grab some of my favorite albums and new releases on wax.

Shades of Blue to this day is one of my favorite instrumental albums that Madlib has released, which is saying a lot considering he has dozens of solid collections of instrumental hip hop, PLUS all the jazzy stuff he was working on back in the day with Yesterday’s New Quintet, Sound Directions, etc. While the beats on this album aren’t as mind blowing or “creative”/complicated I guess as some of his other work, the listening experience with this album is quite pleasant. It’s a great album to just put on the turntable and let it play as you chill out during the evening.

I have always been curious as to what this album would have ended up like if it had not been recorded twice. According to Peanut Butter Wolf, the original version of this album was lost due to some unfortunate incident which resulted in Madlib turning in this second version we all know now rather quickly to Blue Note before the deadline. I’m not sure if the album would have been any better or worse, but I don’t think a lot of people would have guessed that this was a second recording anyway. Knowing the story now though, I have thought that it might be the reason why the tracks he is sampling didn’t lead to more complicated or intricate beats. My original thinking was that the reason for this was due to the album being intended as a way to pay respect to the original Blue Note songs rather than creating his own thing out of them, which I feel may still be true about Madlib’s intentions with this record.

All of the songs on the album are fantastic, but there are definitely a few that stand out to me. The first song would be Funky Blue Note, which is actually the only original composition that was made for this album. The drums are especially nice on this one. Even with all of the jazz projects that Madlib recorded over the years, I would have to say that this one song in particular is my favorite of his work in this genre. As far as his beats go on the album, Mystic Brew, Stepping into Tomorrow and Song for My Father are probably the standouts to me. The video for Slim’s Return was also neat.

As I mentioned earlier, this is probably still my favorite instrumental work of Madlib. While he has made plenty of other albums full of awesome beats, the jazzy aspect of this project has really stuck with me over the years of listening to it.

Songs included above are Funky Blue Note and Mystic Bounce.

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