Dazed Digital: Do you see yourself as an archivist? The Alan Lomax of the crate digging generation?
Madlib: Kind of, yeah. I come from the same mind state. I want people to hear music that really wasn’t played much, that got lost in the shuffle. There was tons of music that was greater than the hits but you don’t know about it unless somebody like, like me or whoever brings it to people’s attention. You know, bringing it back to the people that didn’t hear it back then. I’m one of them, there’s hundreds of us [Laughs]. There’s a lot of young kids that I have inspired to go look for old stuff. We do it for the knowledge, for the kids. Even my kids pick up on things so I know it’s working. It’s not supposed to reach everybody but it’s supposed to reach people who want to keep music alive.
DD: Can you stand back and objectively look at the impact of your music in a wider historical context?
Madlib: That’s for other people to do. I have no idea; we’ll find out later. I hope so, that’s what I meant to do. That’s how you live forever, but time will tell. Maybe I’ll get lost in the shuffle too, you never know.
DD: Have you ever been tempted to take a big cheque to produce a pop star, like Dilla did with Janet?
Madlib: Money’s cool but it’s not all about money. If it was all about money I’d be doing that other thing. But they don’t really come at me, the big cheques don’t really come, I just live comfortable.
DD: You’ve cultivated such a mythical persona – how do you think the public see you?
Madlib: Some people think I’m crazy, but I’m just a normal dude that loves music. I’m quiet, so people might think I’m a mute. I’m a hermit, people rarely see me. People can rarely get in contact with me. I barely answer my phone. I’m not tweeting much, I’m not hashtagging and all that. I don’t do selfies. J Dilla and Common called me an alien. We used to call each other aliens because we’re weird. (laughs)
DD: You have worked with a lot of MCs who have a gangsta edge. Do you ever give credence to that old cliché that violent lyrics can have deadly repercussions in culture?
Madlib: I don’t think so; it depends on your mind. If you’re that stupid or it can control you like that then probably, but I don’t think like that and people around me don’t think like that. Well, I hope not! I look at it as a movie. I don’t look at it like, ‘yo, he’s really gonna go shoot somebody.’ I don’t think the people that rap like that are living like that. It’s just painting images you know. I don’t ever see any of that going down. You got to treat it like you’re watching the Godfather. If it was really true they probably wouldn’t be making records they would probably be out there doing that.
Dubbed “A Rare Encounter With Madlib” for obvious reasons, Dazed Digital caught up with the often mysterious and supremely talented producer for a recent issue. Touching on a variety of topics including his time spent in Oxnard, California to his use of YouTube when he can’t unearth a particular record, he maintains both a sense of mystery and candidness throughout. While a choice excerpt appears below, head over to Dazed Digital to read the interview in its entirety.