Madlib hasn't slept in three days. More than 20 years into his career, the veteran producer still gets so excited by making beats that he often finds himself staying up for days at a time, digging for perfect loops. 

"It's kind of like meditation, how people do yoga and all that type of stuff," he says. "I zone out, and it be a day later, you know what I mean? Really, it's weird. I think it's spirits or something."

Fighting through sleep deprivation and momentarily ignoring a long-standing aversion to media opportunities, Madlib is seated for a rare interview inside the Rappcats record store in Los Angeles. He's here to discuss the making of his 2019 collaborative album with Freddie Gibbs, Bandana, which earned him the distinction as Complex’s Best Hip-Hop Producer Alive in 2019.

After decades of perfecting his sample-based production techniques, working with everyone from MF Doom to De La Soul to Mos Def to Kanye West, Madlib is sharper than ever. And possessing one of the most finely tuned ears in rap, he doesn't need to rely on state-of-the-art or expensive equipment. "For the last seven or eight years, everything's been on an iPad," he tells Complex. "Equipment don't matter. I never had great equipment. I always use low-budget stuff."

All those long nights hunched over his iPad paid off. Unlike some Best Hip-Hop Producer Alive winners, Madlib didn't reinvent the wheel and help usher in a new sound that dramatically changed the landscape of rap. Instead, after over 20 years of sharpening his skills, he focused on a timeless approach to create an album that he calls "a mesh of my weird underground world and [Freddie Gibbs'] gangster, hood stuff." To many, including Complex, it was the best rap album of 2019.

Sitting down with Complex's Pierce Simpson, Madlib spoke about the making of Bandana, his relationship with Freddie Gibbs, future collaborations with Pusha-T and Griselda, Kanye West studio sessions, and more. Watch the video interview below, read why he was named 2019's best hip-hop producer here, and continue for a full transcript of the conversation.

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