Quasimoto Yessir Whatever
Calling Otis Jackson Jr. prolific would be an understatement. Throughout his long and storied career, […]
Calling Otis Jackson Jr. prolific would be an understatement. Throughout his long and storied career, the Oxnard, California native and Stones Throw heavyweight has put out dozens of releases under a litany of pseudonyms and side projects, and although he’s arguably most well-known for his production skills as Madlib, his rap alias Quasimoto and the two LPs released under that name, The Unseen and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, have also garnered considerable recognition. However, Jackson’s material under that name seems to have been put on the backburner for the time being, considering the last Quasimoto release dropped eight years ago. In an attempt to honor Quasimoto’s body of work or—hopefully—build hype for an upcoming album, Stones Throw has seen fit to compile and put out Yessir Whatever, 12 tracks of Quasimoto and Madlib rarities recorded over 12 years.
First things first: for those who aren’t familiar with his work, Quasimoto is not for everyone. The character, allegedly conceived by Jackson during a week-long mushroom binge, raps in a nasal and vaguely helium-addled tone created by manipulating and speeding up Jackson’s natural voice. Furthermore, Jackson is not the most technical rapper; his verses are often simplistic, but his easygoing, relaxed cadence and delivery seamlessly blend into the mix. The subject matter is also a bit unremarkable; Yessir Whatever‘s 12 tracks touch upon topics such as Quas’ prowess with women (“Broad Factor”), calling out false MCs and freeloaders (“The Front”), reminiscing on old flames (“Astronaut”), coping with the responsibilities and expectations of adulthood (“Youngblood”), and, of course, weed (“Sparkdala”). Jackson does demonstrate some storytelling ability on “Am I Confused?,” where he raps about a cycle of turmoil and self-destruction, which includes struggling with illegitimate children, infidelity, substance abuse, and AIDS going on all around him. “Green Power,” which immediately follows “Sparkdala”‘s ode to marijuana use, showcases melancholy musings by both Quasimoto and Madlib on the power that drugs and money hold over people, including the depressing lines “Nothing’s gonna happen to you, at least nothing new/Smile (if you know what’s good for you)” over distant piano samples.
Beats, however, are at the forefront of Yessir Whatever. The production work is consistent, and its sound is nothing short of what one would expect of Jackson, featuring a classic hip-hop sound—replete with dusty kicks and snares—as well as heavy sampling of obscure soul, jazz, and pop culture, all of which is wrapped in a haze of vintage crackles and pops. “Broad Factor” kicks things off with a funky guitar sample and spacey, intermittent synths placed over a neck-snapping rhythm. “Seasons Change” centers around a seductive slow-jam sample, and, in typical Madlib and Quasimoto fashion, the song quickly segues into an outro featuring a quirky sample of Neil Diamond’s “The Pot Smoker’s Song.” Although the LP is relatively consistent in sound (even for material spanning a 12-year period), its latter half seems to focus on Jackson’s fine tuning and studio mastery rather than his particular aesthetic, and is thus where many of the better offerings can be found. “Planned Attack,” in which Quas bigs up his lyrical prowess over boom-bap production reminiscent of vintage East Coast rap (there’s even a Jeru the Damaja sample in its hook), is a good example of this. There aren’t exactly any witty punchlines or quotables, but the lyrics themselves are delivered with a flow that rides the beat well, and utilizes Quas’ nasal battle-rap rhymes as just another component of the production. “Am I Confused?” is another standout, basing its melody around an infectious xylophone sample and altering Jackson’s voice in each new verse, making it sound as though multiple MCs are on the track.
While its age can sometimes be a bit obvious, Yessir Whatever is well put together and organized; it feels less like a blatant retrospective (or worse, a “greatest hits”) and more like a forgotten beat tape. If the rumors that Jackson has scores of unreleased Quasimoto and Madlib tracks stored away are true, the possibility of future compendiums such as Yessir Whatever would certainly be a welcome one, especially if they’re as well curated as this one.