“Sujinho” is a Madlib album. Jackson Conti is just a made up pseudonym, but anything other than Otis Jackson Jr. is too. It’s not like this is the first or last alternate handle he’s had. He’s been DJ Rels. He’s been Quasimoto. He’s been Jahari Massamba Unit. On any given day Mr. Jackson might bust out a new name either as a solo artist or as part of a larger ensemble. “Sujinho” is an example of the latter as this album is a collaboration with Brazilian jazz drummer Ivan Conti.
I’m not entirely convinced translating from Portuguese to English via a web browser is accurate, but when it tells me this album is “Dirty” I think I can buy it. That’s the sound I get from “Papaia,” which you don’t even need a translator for — it’s papaya. This is definitely something that came from the dirt. It grew organically just like good jazz music does. Conti might be the one settled thing about the track. His percussion is a steady hand through the meandering musical experiments of Madlib. When reviewing Jackson’s side projects I often wonder how a rapper would sound over the instrumental. Not here. I want nothing to interrupt the warm embrace of this free form melody.
“Brasilian Sugar” needs even less translation. It starts off with Conti showing just how fast he can swing his sticks at a full drum set, and then slows down only slightly as some xylophone comes in. I have to point out how clean the production is here. Every rim shot and stick click feels like it’s right inside your ear, and the saxophone player might as well be standing behind you. I’m not even playing this on one of those fancy rigs that audiophiles spend tens of thousands of dollars on. Nope. It sounds this good on a standard wireless Bluetooth speaker. Boom.
“Casa Forte” sounds like coffeehouse music. I realize that may be taken as an insult by some people, but when I think of sipping a hot fresh mug of java, I imagine what gets colloquially called “world music” playing in the background. It’s a mixture of different sounds from the African diaspora, wherever black soul has traveled to on this planet, involuntarily or by choice. Songs like this and “Amazon Stroll” could in fact be accused of homogenizing and distilling a diverse culture into easily palatable sips for suburban Karens. That would be the most negative take possible about such enjoyable melodies, but it’s not one that would surprise me in the slightest.
Personally I’d say that the soul that Otis Jackson Jr. and Ivan Conti bring to this collaboration goes beyond crass commercialism on “Sujinho.” In fact given its relative obscurity among Madlib projects (it came out in 2008 and we’re talking about it 15 years later) it would be hard to classify this as a cheap attempt to cash in on Starbucks lattes. While this music might fit in next to MC Lyte’s cup of cappuccino it doesn’t insult or denigrate the history of the rhythms it incorporates. This is a loving tribute to the sounds that you may not have even noticed working their way into the everyday rhythms of your life.