Madlib’s forgotten boogie funk alias: Spectrum 77

It’s fair to say that Madlib is a man of many names. From Lord Quas and Dj Rels to the ever expanding pantheon of YNQ splinter groups, Otis Jackson’s catalog is cavernous: covering hundreds of LPs, EPs and rare singles across three decades.

His stash of unreleased music is almost as immense. There’s rare YNQ excursions like “Madlib Interpreta Azymuth” (hunt it down, trust me), unreleased Madvillian loosies, the pre-Jaylib demos with Madlib rapping over Ummah-era Jay Dee…not to mention a host of instrumental tapes like the 4 volume set “Raw Cake” and the “Ox Essentials” series. 

With an army of Madlib enthusiasts collecting every piece of rare music out there, you’d assume that even his most obscure alias has been documented. Which brings me to Spectrum 77…

In January 2004, Madlib and J Rocc delivered a huge 2 hour mix of Madlib music, much of it unreleased at the time, via Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show on BBC Radio 1. It was such as a cult classic post-airing that bootleg CDs were soon circulating around Europe and beyond.

All the music played that night, save for the “secret record set” towards the end of the mix, is composed by Madlib. That is of course, with the exception of two tracks by a hitherto unknown artist called Spectrum 77. 

The first track which appears at the 6 minute mark is the aptly titled “Disco Freeve”, with four-to-the-floor kicks and some funky triangle work laying the bed for soft Fender Rhodes chords. An hour later (1 hours 7 minutes to into the mix to be precise), another Spectrum 77 track called “Bounce” appears just after an – at the time yet to be released – Dj Rels excursion. This time the vibe is full of 80s boogie flair, with ample Moog bass squelch and reverb-soaked hand claps throughout.

Later in the year, yet another Spectrum joint turns up in Peanut Butter Wolf’s mix for the “Scion CD Sampler V.10” release. The boogie vibes are strong with this one. We’re treated to more funky moog bass, some classy arps and a (presumably sampled) chorus line. The track is titled “??????” on the CD with the side-note stating “Forthcoming 2005”, a release date which clearly never happened. 

The same track appears again in another Peanut Butter Wolf mix in October 2004, this time for BBC Radio 1’s One World show. The track is called “Another Bag” this time, which we’ll assume is the correct title.

Side note: track down that Scion Sampler CD. It features a ton of otherwise unavailable Madlib music, including an unreleased remix of Jaylib’s “The Mission”, as well as YNQ and Joe McDuphrey songs which can only be found on that release.

Since 2004, next to nothing has been heard of Spectrum 77. J Rocc has played “Another Bag” a few times in his mixes, but the release itself appears to have been shelved long ago for reasons that are best known to Stones Throw Records themselves.

So i’d like to propose the entirely plausable theory is that Madlib is Spectrum 77.

My reasoning? Firstly, the fact that the songs themselves have never been played outside the ‘holy trinity’ of Lib, PBW and J Rocc heavily implies that the music is from the inner circle of Stones Throw. Madlib would be a natural fit. Secondly, the timing fits perfectly. Spectrum 77 appeared right around the time that Madlib was experimenting with uptempo music (specifically Broken Beat) as Dj Rels.

Thirdly, the BBC Worldwide mix stands out. Why would they play an entirely Madlib-produced mix for two hours, with the exception of 2 tracks from someone else? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Finally, the sounds themselves fit. All of the three tracks sound suspiciously close to the sonics of “Theme for a Broken Soul”. The Fender Rhodes tone, the Solina String Ensemble, the percussive synth stabs….it’s all there.

So there you have it. Madlib is Spectrum 77. Spectrum 77 is Madlib. I’ve convinced myself at least.

Don’t agree? I’m cool with you being wrong.

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