Release Date: Jun 28, 2019
Record label: RCA
Opposites attract on the duo's second collaborative album; experimental producer Madlib and gruff rapper Freddie Gibbs have created this year's 'Daytona' Freddie Gibbs and Madlib play to two very different audiences. The former is a gruff gangster rapper who evokes a thuggish Tupac in the Death Row days; the latter is an experimental rap producer who makes intricate worlds out of niche soul samples. Yet when these two came together for 2014's sunny ‘Piñata’, something magical happened, with the odd couple producing one of the best ever rap albums about selling cocaine.
One was an up-and-coming rapper from Gary, Indiana, yet to release his first full-length album and the other, one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed hip-hop producers of the 2000s. However, 2014's Piñata was a tour de force of funk-fusion and jazz classicism all mixed with the honest cynicism of Gibbs' lyrics, all of which prefigured it as an instant classic and at the very least one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade. Now over five years since the release of their seminal debut, Bandana is an album which is recognisably cut from the same cloth as its predecessor.
On paper, Freddie Gibbs, a straight-shooting street rapper, and Madlib, an eccentric tinkerer, are as mouth-watering a combo as licorice and pickle juice. But their collaborative 2014 album Piñata succeeded because the two are equally uncompromising: Madlib tailors beats to his eclectic ears alone, while Gibbs insists that he can rap over anything. Kindred spirits, the pair bonded through mutual gumption.
I hate to be so wishy-washy and qualifying about it, but every critic of every persuasion has to cope with reviews like this from time to time: there's an inherent bias present here. I try my damnedest to remain objective (or as objective as the aesthetic theories of music writing allow), but don't get it twisted-- I adore Freddie Gibbs as a rapper, and I really, really adore Madlib's production style. So much of my love for hip-hop can be traced back to the latter's contributions to eternal classic Madvillainy, a now canonized collaboration between 'Lib and MF DOOM, that it's hard for me not to get a little teary-eyed and nostalgic whenever I hear the bizarro-genius producer let some crate-dug samples fly amongst a minimal, grimy backdrop of gobsmacking beats and police sirens.
The quality of Piñata, the first full-length collaboration of Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary producer Madlib didn't come out of nowhere, as both artists had gained a strong following and good amounts of acclaim (Madlib more so than Gibbs). But if meeting expectations meant a great album, surpassing them meant a new classic. It turned out that Madlib's crate-digging ways brought out the best in Gibbs' storytelling abilities, allowing every detail of his hard-knocks Rust Belt surroundings to hold weight, from his favorite chicken joint to the emotional scars of a shattered relationship, and giving room for a large slate of guests, including Danny Brown, Raekwon, Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt, and Scarface, to shine.
There's a certain alchemy in hip-hop whereby the pairing of MC and producer becomes more than the sum of its parts. It's there in the pairing of Cannibal Ox and El-P on The Cold Vein, or with Pusha and Kanye on DAYTONA; the sense of a reciprocal apprehension, each finding a resonance in the other allowing them to step a foot taller, shine a stop brighter. Whatever that secret ingredient is, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have it in spades.
After a five year hiatus, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib are back with their Keep Cool Records debut 'Bandana'. Still existing in a conventional hip-hop space, the album has an instant mid-2000s feel in places, with references to prominent figures from that era like Ace Hood, as well as Gibbs' adherence to skill and authentic penmanship. Listeners are given consistency and quality throughout.