Unsung Heroes: Diverse
The inexplicable absence of artist Diverse from the hip-hop scene has left many bewildered. In this Unsung Heroes,...
California native Madlib (born Otis Jackson Jr.) is a multitalented recording artist who infamously describes himself as a "DJ first, producer second, and MC last." While most commonly known by his moniker, Madlib, he has released music under a variety of pseudonyms throughout the course of his career. Born into a musically gifted family, Madlib grew up exposed to a variety of musical genres, with hip-hop specifically winning him over. In 1990, his Madlib alias was born, as he joined the trio Lootpack along with his friends DJ Romes and Wildchild. Lootpack released their first project The Psyche Move EP in 1995 via Crate Digga's Palace, a label funded by Madlib's father. This led them to sign to Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw label, which Madlib would end up calling his longtime home. Lootpack's debut album, Soundpieces: Da Antidote arrived in 1999. By this time Madlib was keeping busy with other projects as a producer, as well as trying out his Quasimoto alias. In 2000, he released his first project as Quasimoto, The Unseen, which featured treated and distinctively high-pitched vocals and spacious, jazzy production. The next handful of years saw many fruitful collaborations—working with his former Lootpack affiliate, Wildchild, on Secondary Protocol, teaming up with J. Dilla as Jaylib, plus releasing music with MF Doom under the name Madvillian. His production credits include De La Soul, Dudley Perkins, Mos Def, Guilty Simpson, Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Kanye West and more. With an extensive discography spanning over two decades, including his notable 13-part series Medicine Show—which saw the release of one album a month for a full year—Madlib is one of the most celebrated and creative artists to emerge from the early ‘90s.
While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint's third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction. For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM's diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track "Book of Daniel," during which he accused DOOM of selling out. With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.