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Of all hip-hop wünderkind Madlib's multiple identities, Quasimoto remains the most compelling -- a Munchkin-voiced dope fiend who'll say and do just about anything. But the real marvel is that his creator finds equally colorful settings for this comic-book creation: first on the 2000 classic The Unseen, and now, upping the ante considerably, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas.

Even the inevitable comparisons to Paul's Boutique understate how diffuse these 27 brief but idea-crammed tracks really are. Think instead of a walk with Quas through the projects on a summer evening: Laughter and arguments fade in and out, snatches of old soul, jazz, and hip-hop drift by, and as always, there's that half-humorous, half-disturbing helium voice in your ear -- Madlib himself even chimes in periodically, like a good angel. To speak of the best moments is beside the point; this soundscape must be inhabited and understood as you go.

That's the one nagging thing about The Further Adventures, packed as it is with muddled brilliance: Madlib has already done muddled brilliance. As effective a disguise as Lord Quas is, it's still a disguise. This disc is a lock for year-end best-ofs, and deservedly so. But it's possible to appreciate its greatness and still wish the Wizard of Quas might someday step out completely from behind the curtain.

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Dan Leroy

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