Madlib, Van Peebles Revive 'Br'er Soul'

It took the better part of five years for hip-hop wunderkind Madlib to follow up the debut of his alter ego, Quasimoto. But fans of the helium-voiced, antisocial Quas may not have as long to wait for

It took the better part of five years for hip-hop wunderkind Madlib to follow up the debut of his alter ego, Quasimoto. But fans of the helium-voiced, antisocial Quas may not have as long to wait for the next installment.

Madlib, whose second album as Quasimoto, "The Further Adventures of Lord Quas," was released last month, tells Billboard.com he's already at work on a project that will pair him with the poet, filmmaker and actor Melvin Van Peebles.

Titled "Br'er Soul Meets Quasimoto," the planned double album will feature new musical settings for some of Van Peebles' songs and spoken-word bits from his string of influential recordings in the late 1960s and '70s

"When I first started diggin' for vinyl seriously, in '88 or '89, I got into all the spoken-word records," remembers Madlib, a.k.a. Otis Jackson Jr. "And the first record of Melvin Van Peebles I came across was 'Ain't Supposed To Die a Natural Death' It was just raw, funky. He was the rebel of the industry. And there was also a humor to it."

The aspiring Los Angeles-based producer sought out other Van Peebles albums, like his 1968 debut, "Br'er Soul," and became a fan of Van Peebles' best-known work, the 1971 landmark Blaxploitation film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." Madlib would later use Van Peebles' dialogue liberally in his own music; "The Further Adventures of Lord Quas" is filled with samples from Sweet Sweetback.

Although they didn't meet face-to-face until earlier this month, work on the pair's collaboration -- which Madlib expects to be released early next year on his longtime label, Stones Throw -- is well underway.

"I have all of his new a capellas, 16 tracks," Madlib says. "The same old thing, but new versions. I got the material a couple of weeks ago, so I'm getting used to it now."

Madlib plans to set those vocals to beats that will touch on several of his own side projects, including the sinister Quasimoto and the jazz-oriented Yesterday's New Quintet, which he promises has no less than six new albums ready for release.

"I got the regular, traditional jazz album, I got free jazz, I got a percussion ensemble, and I got a funk thing called Sound Directions, like the old movie soundtrack-type stuff," says Madlib.

But the first new YNQ effort to see daylight will probably be "Angles Without Edges II," a sequel to the faux fusion group's 2001 debut. Madlib expects it will be out before year's end and says, "you can hear the progress. 'Angles,' that was my first year of playing, so things are a little different now."

Also in the works is a straight Madlib solo album, begging the question of how long he can maintain this level of output. Madlib shrugs off a comparison to Prince, who went through a similarly fertile period in the '80s, and says he doesn't need anyone to help filter his ideas.

"Nah, man, I just do it from my heart," he says. "I don't care what anybody thinks. I'm glad they do like it, but I make music for my own mental health, you know?"