Record Review - 3 January 27 2001
Hip-hoppers have recently taken to remaking their personae in ways even more outlandish than usual for a music where identity is paramount. But while most rappers' aliases serve as amplifications of the more superhuman aspects of their creators' imaginations, Quasimoto — aka Madlib of the Oxnard, Calif., group Lootpack — achieves a more introspective end. Rather than following the lead of the RZA-as-Bobby Digital or of Kool Keith's closetful of barely distinguishable guises, Madlib tweaks most of his vocals into a genderless nether region, which interacts with his natural voice like a dialogue between the rational mind and the slippery subconscious.
The Unseen's raw, dreamily layered tracks, co-mixed by San Franciscans Kut Masta Kurt and Peanut Butter Wolf, have a skittering, cartoonish quality reminiscent of both Sign O' the Times-era Prince and De La Soul circa 3 Feet High and Rising. Quasimoto's album bursts with so much found material it's tempting to think Madlib changed his name to escape litigation, pilfering everything from Augustus Pablo to Melvin Van Peebles to enough jazz artists to fill a West Village loft, most of whom are name-checked on "Jazz Cats Pt. 1" (which rhymes "Albert Ayler" and "McCoy Tyner"). Trippy and nonchalant, these snippets dart through the mix like signposts seen from a moving train: impetuous asides, noise bursts and oddball one-time-only loops. Quasimoto is lost in music, and The Unseen is so heady you'll want to lose yourself right alongside him.