On ‘Bandana,’ Freddie Gibbs and Madlib do what they do best

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

RCA Records · June 26, 2019

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib caught lightning in a bottle with their 2014 collaborative debut Piñata, lauded by critics and listeners alike for its rugged authenticity and punchy execution. In the years since, fans have been eager for a second helping from the Gary, Indiana emcee and Oxnard, California rapper-producer who operate together under the alias MadGibbs. Fortunately, Bandana is a worthy sequel that builds on Piñata’s strengths to deliver a project that is on the same level as, if not superior to, its predecessor.

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:

About Daniel Paszkowski 5 Articles
Daniel Paszkowski is a fourth year Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry combined major from Connecticut, where the most exciting attraction is perhaps the Mark Twain House. We are still struggling to find out who allowed him to write about music, but while the investigation is ongoing you can find him critiquing the latest hip hop releases and eagerly awaiting the next Tame Impala album.

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