Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Madlib Invasion
In an interview with Radio.com, Freddie Gibbs was asked about his jab at Young Jeezy on the Piñata cut “Real”. “I ain’t worried about nobody coming at me lyrically. I make these sh*t diss records look like kumbaya…you come at Gibbs man that sword better be sharp.” Those are some fiery words and usually MCs would be running to send slicing tracks Gibbs’ way.
Freddie Gibbs is sticking to his guns. After years of not-so-quiet industry hurdles, Piñata feels a little like another debut. His content remains uncompromised—nothing on the album would be a fit for radio—and particularly with Madlib at the helm, he seems as focused as ever. It’s a bit of a new brand of the same for Gibbs in that sense, undoubtedly his best and most streamlined to date, another conspicuous drop in the bucket for ‘Lib.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib :: PinataMadlib InvazionAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonIf one rapper can singlehandedly put Gary, Indiana on the map as something other than the ancestral home of the Jacksons, Freddie Gibbs is the man to do it. If any rap artist can claim to be from an unapologetically gangster city, he or she would be FROM Gary. ChiRaq may have more fame from a greater level of rap exposure, but Gary is just 25 miles away and arguably as hazardous to the health of a young urban dweller if not moreso.
A couple weeks back, I developed an insatiable craving for fried chicken from Harold’s Chicken Shack. Which was strange to me, because I’ve never even been to Harold’s. But after listening to Piñata, I had become possessed by this strangely lucid notion of what a six-piece combo from the Chicago chicken joint would taste like. So I took some chicken tenders and a handful of french fries, wedged them between two pieces of white bread, slathered the whole affair in hot sauce, and did my best to satisfy this strange, synesthetic craving that had taken ahold of me.
The combination of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – knuckleheaded rap thug and sophisticated, jazz-loving producer – may sound unlikely on paper. On record, though, Gibbs’ coarsely inventive flow works perfectly with Madlib’s imperfectly human beats. Nothing here is polished or computer perfect: instead the beats stink and stumble, full of unnerving soul strings and off-centre drums.
With a delivery that sounds like 2Pac pitched down a notch, and a technical, streetwise proficiency that's Scarface-styled and just as solid, Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs is a rare find, but his odd come-up is arguably even more interesting. Promoted by websites with more of an indie spin and hanging with more left-field folk like Chip tha Ripper, SpaceGhostPurrp, and the Cool Kids, Gibbs is a gruff thug who allows access to the avant side of the underground, something that's especially attractive to any edgy beatmaker with a love of hardcore lyrics. In the case of this superior collaboration called Piñata, that beatmaker is Madlib, the wonderfully cloudy king of groove who has long anchored the Stones Throw label to the street.
On Piñata, eccentric sample masher Madlib and MC Freddie Gibbs employ the vintage sounds of the 1970s and storytelling beats of Blaxploitation movies to create an album that sounds like it could have been released in the mid '90s. For those who were lucky enough to spend their teens immersed in hip-hop's golden age, Piñata is a generous slab of comfort food: the crackling movie sample of a philosophizing street hustler that serves as the album's intro; loops built from old funk and quiet-storm LPs, with drums that always sound live; lyrics that tell it like it is with just enough artistic remove to work as adrenaline-pumping entertainment. And thanks to the talents of the artists involved, the album is more than a fun glimpse at the past.
The appreciation of Madlib and Freddie Gibbs' new collaboration Piñata depends on the range of your hip-hop tastes and your familiarity with both artists' deep cuts. Madlib's Remixes albums put his beats in a street-rap context, giving his esoteric, dusty-sample imprint to cuts like Kurupt's "Who Ride Wit Us" and the Noreaga verse on "Misery Loves Company". And while Gibbs has thrived when his voice cuts through updated G-funk or soul-chromed Southern bounce, he's also sounded at home on the boom-bap-leaning East Coast beats of Statik Selektah (Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away) and the more blunted second half of Baby Face Killa.
This is the type of idea that can’t go wrong. Piñata might not even work as a front-to-back listen, but it’s a damn near guarantee you’re going to get good raps over left-field beats. That’s what’s expected, and that’s what’s given, but that’s not all. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib don’t reflect off each other in the way Action Bronson and Party Supplies bring out the best in each other when they meet.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Piñata is the 17 track long collaborative effort by two of hip-hop's most critically revered talents, straight talking Pac-meets-DMX rapper Freddie Gibbs and Stones Throw Records' MVP Madlib. Having explored every inch of it, I can tell you that it sounds exactly like a 17 track long collaborative effort by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib.
Piñata is the culmination of a slowly building collaborative process rapper Freddie Gibbs and genial producer Madlib. The two have been putting out through a series of EPs dating back to 2011, but this LP stretches the set's Blaxploitation theme out in full for the first time, inviting listeners into the fleshed-out world of Gibbs' imperfect yet unrepentant old thug persona. Madlib serves up a subdued string of largely spacious and moody soul beats that, for the most part, stay out of the way and allow the self-described "Freddie Corleone" to ruminate about the lust, allure, trappings and failings of hood hustling, all with the bravado of a thug game graduate who will never grow old.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib make an unlikely duo: Gibbs is a brusque street-rap purist with "an icemaker for a heart," Madlib a crate-digging cult hero with a taste for deep psychedelia and free jazz. But the MC and the producer click in surprisingly satisfying ways on their first full-length album together, as Madlib's beats add a druggy, unpredictable edge to Gibbs' hard-boiled grudges and regrets. At its best, Piñata recalls the dark-alley vibes of Raekwon's classic, RZA-produced 1994 debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx .
Freddie Gibbs is a native of gritty Gary, Indiana, Madlib hails from sunny Los Angeles. Gibbs is a grizzled street rapper with a voice that sounds uncannily like Tupac Shakur's. Madlib is a producer with a long-established reputation for raiding recorded obscurities for loops with a discernible quirk. It's an odd couple, but what they share is a fetishisation of independence, a determination not to (to coin an old phrase) "sell out".
As one of hip-hop’s most talented but mercurial producers, Madlib has always eschewed high-profile, fame-solidifying associations in favor of affiliations with hand-selected, lesser-known MCs, uncovering some welcome surprises (MF Doom on Madvillainy, Guilty Simpson on O.J. Simpson) and some unredeemable duds (J Dilla on Champion Sound). After completing Madlib Medicine Show—a three-year, 13-album stylistic hodgepodge of beats, samples, instrumentals, obscurities, and remixes—he returns to pet-project pairings with Freddie Gibbs, an Indiana dealer-turned-rapper who’s spent five years slowly building his reputation through noteworthy online releases.
The collaboration between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib doesn’t seem natural at first—the hardest rapper out of Gary, IN. working with a notoriously reclusive producer who invented his own jazz group? But when soulful but hard-hitting tracks like “Shame” and “Thuggin’” began to surface, they set both a clear tone for what MadGibbs would sound like and a high bar for their full LP. On the long-awaited Piñata, Madlib and Gibbs smash that bar and stick the jagged pieces to your throat, producing an early but strong contender for album of the year.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib Piñata (Madlib Invazion) In many ways, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs represent the odd couple. Madlib, the crazy chemist who's made a career of hip-hop experimentalism, crafts crunchy beats from jazz loops and dusty soul samples. Freddie Gibbs slangs lyrical dope, offering a glimpse into the desperate and desolate street life of his native Gary, Indiana.
It’s consequentialism at its finest. At the start of Piñata, Freddie Gibbs sends out a reminder that what you end up with justifies how you got there: “The thing was to get it/It really didn’t matter what the means was.” And throughout the album, Gibbs and Madlib prove that to be true. For starters, despite what their debut 2011 collab Thuggin’ taught us, the pairing is still unusual: the hard-headed rapper from Indiana with a blistering flow; the California producer with a penchant for jazz samples and beats that change direction like pinballs in the bonus round.