Music Column | posted 29.06.2019
Records Revisited
Lootpack – Soundpieces: Da Antidote! (1999)
The breakthrough: »Soundpieces: Da Antidote« lifted the still young West Coast label Stones Throw from the circle of experts to the cult Olympus. Now the underground classic is 20 years old.
Text Tim Tschentscher
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In Oxnard, the small town near Los Angeles, you can do exactly two things: join a gang or plant strawberries. In order not to get shot in the open street, you either choose the latter way, leave the city or alternatively start making music. Before the son of a Southwest Californian family of artists became the style pioneer of a new generation of producers, Otis Jackson Jr. and friends from high school created an album that in many ways made a difference. Even 20 years after the release of the record, Lootpack’s »Soundpieces: Da Antidote!« still sees itself as an antidote to the supposed taste disorder of a successively emancipated African-American understanding of music. At the same time, this album was the starting signal for a series of cult milestones on the independent label Stones Throw. But from the front.

With the death of the two figureheads of hip hop, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac, culture not only lost two of its most important artists. On its way into the new millennium, the genre had to strive for a new identity. The Wu-Tang Clan had already largely disintegrated in 1999, DMX created a new wave of hardcore and Puff Daddy prepared what would enter rap history just a few seasons later than the Bling era. So while the mainstream, inspired by the last peak of CD sales, was always striving for the next bigger one, the underground players deliberately separated themselves from maximalism. Lootpack was an unpretentious concession to what the movement once raised from the backyards into the radios.

Wildchild, DJ Romes and Madlib even took a step back. The focus should be more elementary on B-Boy suitability, lyricism and DJing. On the lyrical level, Wildchild and Madlib struck different notes than the Zeitgeist already allowed. »Soundpieces: Da Antidote« is basically a classic Battlerap, but apart from the typical »wack emcees« they also dished hot label executives, beneficiaries and other exploiters of the industry. This self-referentiality is the study of the interior by observing the exterior. Although the lyrics on the album are not very innovative, they testify to a deep idealism that became more and more valuable, especially in retrospect. One wanted to get away from the gangsta narrative of the west coast, away from street pathos, away from increasing hypermasculinity and away from Moët drinking. Of course, they were far removed from the claim to change hip-hop in the long term, because others had already done so. Rather, the former ideals should be reconsidered in order to celebrate them.

»Soundpieces: Da Antidote« manifested what Stones Throw continued to stand for: honest hip-hop with a tendency towards eccentricity.

The input Madlib brings to the table is bursting with ideas and originality. At the time of publication it was no longer unknown. Jackson earned his first spurs in 1993 for work on the debut album of the Alkaholiks, »21 & Over«. As part of the Likwit crew, Lootpack broke free from the shadow of the already established Liks with »Soundpieces«. Compared to later works, Madlib’s genre-expanding, explorative handwriting was first articulated on projects like »Champion Sound« and »Madvillainy«. Here it is the seemingly simple boom-bap loops that set Madlib’s eclectic instinct for catchy samples from obscure sources in scene. Despite the group’s success, »Soundpieces« can be seen as Madlib’s debut album. He mainly produced the beats himself. More than half of the rap-parts are on his account.

With the track »Answers« also Quasimoto appears for the first time as an alter ego. Label boss Peanut Butter Wolf discovered the helium experiment on the last seconds of an unspectacular demo track. In the Interlude »20 Questions« Madlib interviews himself with Quasimoto. Although the supposed 20 questions ultimately only become eight, here again it becomes clear: Madlib is an unpredictable one-man army and it’s hardly surprising how stylistically diverse the future career should be. Some of the weirdest instrumentals can be found on »Episodes«, an epic 9-minute opus. Beat and rapper change per episode, but thanks to clever production it sounds like a unified whole.

Although Wildchild’s rap skills against Madlib clearly predominate here and implied a promising career, Wildchild’s further career after this album was rather quiet. After that DJ Romes worked mainly in the background, did single productions every now and then and acted mainly as a live DJ. So »Soundpieces: Da Antidote« is ultimately also the snapshot of an attitudes-free rap crew from the late nineties, which was above all one thing: having fun with making music.

Lootpack – Soundpieces: Da Antidote!Webshop ► Vinyl 3LP Stones Throw almost never came into being as a platform after the death of his friend Charizma. The label, which had hardly been known until then, did run reasonably well, but it was the surprising success of Lootpack that released new energy in Peanut Butter Wolf. It was above all the meeting between Wolf, the later label manager of Now-Again, Egon, Creative Director Jeff Jank and Madlib as a flat-sharing community in the easternmost part of Hollywood that contributed to the formation of a creative basis for the label. »Soundpieces« manifested what Stones Throw continued to stand for: honest alternative hip hop with a tendency towards eccentricity.


You can find Lootpack on Vinyl records in the webshop of HHV Records .

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