Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
RCA Records · June 26, 2019
Bandana, strangely enough, is an album that almost never got made. Madlib, who purportedly produced all of the instrumentals on an iPad, originally gave the bulk of the beats that would appear on the album to Kanye West for his The Life of Pablo sessions in 2016. That same year, Freddie Gibbs was arrested in France and later extradited to Austria, alleged to have committed rape and sexual assault. Soon acquitted of all charges, Gibbs wrote the majority of the album while held in a jail cell where he was offered few amenities and had to recall the beats Madlib gave him from memory.
The effect of this harrowing experience on Gibbs is manifested on many of Bandana’s tracks. He is angry and determined on the venomous pair “Half Manne Half Cocaine” and “Flat Tummy Tea,” making sure his words are heard at all costs. Meanwhile, “Fake Names” and “Situations” are just two of many tracks on this album where Freddie ruminates, in a manner that could almost be confused for remorse, on the cutthroat nature of his illicit business dealings. Like many maturing emcees, he has become a father in recent years, and explores his complex familial relationships on songs like “Practice” and through these lethal juxtaposed bars on “Giannis:” “Every mornin’ I wake up with my daughter, Dora Explorer/Then I get right back to the pot/Kitchen stankin’, that’s potty trainin’.”
Indeed, Gibbs seldom falters lyrically on this album, experimenting with fast and ferocious flows and choosing to share the stage with a select five guest artists, a paltry few in comparison to Piñata. “Palmolive,” featuring Killer Mike and Pusha T, is a face-melting masterclass in gritty coke rap from the three emcees. Listeners may recall the sample for “Education” also being used on “Bonjour” from Nas’s 2018 full-length NASIR, but Kanye and co.’s lighthearted interpretation of the source contrasts heavily with Madlib’s menacing flip on which Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, and Black Thought of Blackstar fame omit choruses and assist Gibbs in a scathing commentary on societal injustice.
Listen to Bandana: