Album Review: Sound Ancestors by Madlib

Furio Gerwitz, Volunteer DJ

Album cover art for Sound Ancestors by Madlib

Album: Sound Ancestors

Artist: Madlib


Sound Ancestors is the latest album by American hip hop producer Madlib, with significant contributions made by fellow producer Four Tet, best known for his ambient works. The album was released on January 29 of this year on Madlib’s label, Madlib Invazion. While Madlib is best known for his rap collaboration albums with MF DOOM and Freddie Gibbs, a significant component of his discography is occupied by sample heavy instrumental albums, beat tapes, and a jazz project. Sound Ancestors follows the latter template, with vocals present only as samples and a wide range of instrumentation present.



There Is No Time – Prelude: One of the more ambient tracks on the album, the opener begins on a quiet and sparse track mainly driven by a slow harp and a subdued lead.


The Call: This track opens on a heavy, upbeat baseline and an incessant drumbeat, with sampled chorus vocals interspersed and cut throughout.


Theme de Crabtree: A more mellow beat, driven by heavy drums, a subdued riff, and a hypeman interspersed throughout.


Road of the Lonely Ones: A somber song, driven by an excellent soul sample and a somewhat repetitive drumline.


Loose Goose: Probably the only track I actively dislike on the album. The central focus of this song is a repetitive horn riff that certainly overstays its welcome.


Dirtknock: An instrumentally sparse track, driven by clicky drums and lowly tuned bass. This track has one of the more straight forward vocal performances, with quiet singing occupying much of the track time.


Hopprock: After a prolonged intro, the track builds to a drum heavy track driven by a building guitar riff and sampled chants riddled throughout.


Riddim Chant: Another down tempo beat, featuring heavy boom bap drums and what sounds like a short MF DOOM vocal sample mixed throughout.


Sound Ancestors: One of the most experimental tracks on the album, this one opens on a prolonged traditional drum solo before transitioning to a free jazz piece featuring drums and a woodwind.


One for Quartabe/Right Now: A two part track that begins with an uptempo, busy beat before transitioning to a mellow cut driven by a smooth bassline.


Hang Out(Phone Off): This track checks off many of the same boxes as Dirtknock, with a bit denser instrumentation.


Two for 2 – For Dilla: A tribute to late collaborator Jay Dilla, this track begins with a sparse and slow beat before transitioning to a horn heavy outro with punctuated by chaotically chopped vocals.


Latino Negro: A more subdued track, driven by a finely played Spanish guitar and jazz drums.


The New Normal: One of the only tracks to feature a synthesizer, the track is led by an aggressive sawtooth bass and equally aggressive drum beat.


Chino: An uptempo piano lead beat, featuring boom bap drums and energetic sampled vocals.


Duumbiyay: The album ends on an upbeat jazz piece, featuring piano, drums and an eclectic vocal sample which covers the track’s runtime.




I think Sound Ancestors is an excellent album. Instrumentally, the album maintains many hallmarks of Madlib’s production style, mainly heavy drums and sampling, while experimenting with ambient composition and a wide palette of instrumentation. I imagine some of the atmosphere of the project is due to Four Tet’s involvement, but Madlib’s fingerprints are clearly on each track. Ultimately, the album feels like a showcase of the diversity of Madlib as a musician, making it a great listen for those familiar and unfamiliar with his work. I’d rate Sound Ancestors a solid 4/5 Spinnaker Sails.


Standout Tracks: Theme de Crabtree, One for Quartabe/Right Now, Two for 2 – For Dilla



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