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Colorful, perplexing, multiple personalities inhabit the wild imagination of Madlib: There’s the mischievous MC Quasimoto; the rare-groove-ologists the Beat Conductor and Loop Digga; and the retrofuturistic jazz “combo” Yesterday’s New Quintet. One soft-spoken, hip-hop innovator brings all those projects to sonic life: “Oh, I got hundreds of others,” Madlib laughs of his pseudonyms. “But, for now, you’ll have only heard about a few.”

Madlib, born Otis Jackson Jr. in Oxnard, Calif., is the son of noted bluesman Otis Jackson Sr. and folk singer-guitarist Sinesca Jackson and the nephew of trumpet virtuoso Jon Faddis. But for someone with such an illustrious pedigree, it’s baffling that Madlib never formally studied music and doesn’t read music. Instead, he became a compulsive crate-digger. “I just studied records,” he says. “I’ll listen to records and then try to play the music on them. I don’t dig as much as I used to, because I have so many records that I haven’t even listened to. I have two rooms full of records. But when I dig, I’m doing it for almost a half a day.”

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