What Musicians Can Learn From Madlib

Madlib is a name synonymous with hip-hop fans as one of the greatest producers to ever sit behind the mixing board. His hands-on approach to making great music has lead to storied collaborations with MF Doom, Freddie Gibbs, and, most recently, Kanye West.

After spending a long time in the underground music scene, Madlib helped produce Kanye’s hit featuring Kendrick Lamar, “No More Parties in LA.” West has also hinted at working more with Madlib after tweeting a thank you to Madlib for the incredible beats he produces.

What can Madlib teach artists trying to get to a point in their careers where they can court the mainstream with integrity?

1. Always be learning.

Madlib is a walking encyclopedia of music. He has one of the largest record collections of modern producers and realizes that one has to be a fan of music first.

He approached music like a student, coming up with the equally legendary producer, J Dilla. Soon Madlib became a master, but always has time to draw inspiration from an eclectic variety of music.

2. Have side projects.

Every musician has a passion project, but to stay working and expand one’s musical network, it is important to have side projects. Beyond having a backup plan, a side project will force musicians to reevaluate their own music. This can only help musicians evolve as an artist.

Madlib not only has produced solo albums, but he has also done collaborative albums and side projects. Those collaborative pieces have become some of Madlib’s most critically acclaimed material.

Having side projects helps musicians go outside of their comfort zone.

3. Be influenced by things other than music.

Movies are nearly as important to Madlib’s music as his own record collection is. Listeners can hear movie clips throughout his albums. When artists start looking to other works of art with a critical eye, their own creation often expands.

Along with films, the theme of traveling has played an important role in Madlib’s music. He has a collection of albums based on different locations around the world. If musicians are lucky enough to travel the world because of their work, they should make art based on their experiences.

Madlib has created a unique world through sampling music that no one else would. He can teach musicians to gain a sense of history when it comes to music and other forms of media. He worked with other musical giants because he was open to side projects. Musicians need to stay obsessed with their craft by challenging it, then they turn from students to masters.

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Will Randick is a blogger and educator working out of the Bay Area.

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