Impresario Madlib has adopted a new alter ego and created a new genre. In the U.K., they call it breakbeat. In the U.S., we use the term broken soul. Although some may view Madlib's transition into DJ Rels as a radical change, Theme for a Broken Soul isn't too much of a departure from his "hip-hop" past. The beats may be more fractured, but all of the Madlib hallmarks are still here: layered sounds, propulsive drums, a selective use of samples, and a keen ability to graft drum machines onto improvised keyboard jams. What it all comes down to, really, is genre smearing, not genre change.
While a few others have toyed with the idea of bridging the gaps among hip-hop, Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban, and the futuristic jungle music of Sextant-era Herbie Hancock, Madlib charges ahead on all cylinders. Of course, the big difference between the two is that Madlib/Rels does it all himself. Such an approach is the source of his unique magic. No matter what he does, he always sounds like a band instead of a dude messing around in his basement. -- David Mittleman