Champion Sound (Reissue)
adlib has made his career as the reefer-toting madman behind the boards of indie-rap’s elite, pumping pulp samples and squeaking out random phrases as his alter ego Quasimoto. His stutter stepping, minimalist beats are almost immediately recognizable and possibly some of the most difficult to flow over. J Dilla, on the other hand, made his career in a much different fashion. He died.
In conjunction with the reissues being put out in the wake of his unfortunate death, Stones Throw has put together a deluxe edition of the duo’s only full-scale collaboration, Champion Sound. Sadly, it’s a disc that doesn’t stand on its own—and hardly one that merits a reissue. By taking the lyricism into their own hands, Madlib and Dilla took what could have been an incredible collection of beats for any A-list emcee and turned it into an amateur collaboration between two top-notch producers. It’s equivalent to putting Carmelo and Lebron on the same team, seeing they can’t work together on the court, and then turning them both into hockey players, hoping their athleticism will carry their lack of skills. When they pull out the big guns, Talib Kweli spitting on “Raw Shit” for instance, it’s painfully clear what Champion Sound actually could have been.
As the disc was essentially phoned in—the two producers mailed collections of beats to one another over several months—there’s a significant disconnect between the two. Frequently on Champion Sound, either Dilla or Madlib would sit on the sidelines as their counterpart would do the sole production for a track. And because they often don’t collaborate, a featured emcee will only shout out the producer that ultimately worked on the song alone, further emphasizing their distance. (On “Strapped,” Detroit emcee Guilty Simpson mumbles as the track opens, “Bringing this one home for the Detroit City, J Dilla,” for instance.)
Like any reissue though, Champion Sound has an overwhelming amount of bonus songs to get lost in, the best of which are the instrumental versions of each album track. The ability to bypass the sub par flows further reinforces what the album was missing in the first place. Here, the producers are given their rightful limelight, unobstructed by their own lyrical aspirations.
On the whole though, Champion Sound is exactly what you’d expect: smooth industrial beats, fused with spastic flows about weed, music, and women. That’s about it though. Reissues are generally reserved for timeless albums, but this rehashing seems to be begging for someone to give it the attention they hoped to find when it first came out—only a few years ago.