Review: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Bandana”

MadGibbs are “nothing short of brilliant” throughout new album, “Bandana”

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s return to work with “Bandana” was nothing short of brilliant. The pair’s previous project shone a light on the greatness of both artists, but this time around it has helped to further cement a legacy for one of them whilst it has laid down more foundations for the other.

When Madlib and Freddie Gibbs first started working together, it was a shocking moment. Madlib is undeniably one of the greatest producers to ever grace the game, whilst at the time Freddie Gibbs was relatively unknown to many in hip hop still. He was a young upstart who had already had his struggles with record labels and other rappers, and many thought this was just another victim of the rap game chewing someone up and spitting them back out. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Freddie Gibbs illustrated his talents thoroughly throughout “Bandana” and proved many doubters wrong. It was a moment that helped him to push through the glass ceiling that was once above him but less than two years later things took a turn for the worse. Gibbs was incarcerated in France then extradited to Austria for a crime he never committed, although he was found innocent it is things like those some people never recover from and Gibbs contemplated quitting the game completely.

It was in prison that Gangsta Gibbs wrote most of the material for this album – as well as a few other projects. He said in an interview with Complex that when he was listening to the beats from Madlib when he got arrested. When he was in jail he said he found it easy to write because all he had was God and memories, memories of the beats.

The beats themselves were conducted by Madlib all on an iPad, as he confirmed in a tweet the other day, and it is a credit to him because they are some of the greatest beats of the past few years. His ability to sample records and sounds and create this whirlwind of a sonic soundscape is incredible.

The beats transport you to places, and the album itself is one long journey. For those who have never heard a Madlib album before, you may be put off of it due to the sheer messiness of the sound, but that’s what a Madlib album is.

The album blends vocals and beats together perfectly though with Freddie’s husky, gravelly voice at times complimenting the smooth jazz sounding beats Madlib created. The juxtaposition works amazingly well, the content rapped about with the smooth, laidback production on some tracks is crazy. On “Cataracts“, Madlib samples a soulful beat and Gibbs raps about “living la Vida broke-a, fuckin’ these smokers up and baggin’ crack”.

It’s a harrowing insight but he does it with such ease, such gracefulness that the most horrific sounding thing is almost skipped over until the next bar that drops your jaw, as just a few bars later he’s rapping about robbing and tying some Crips in Atlanta up and having to kill somebody he did it without of fear of snitching. Yeah, it’s that intense at times.

On top of all this, you’ve got the features. Joe Budden recently said having Anderson Paak on a song is like a cheat code due to how good he is, but the Paak we see on Giannis isn’t the same as the usual one, where he raps about selling ‘caine to pay the bills and truces between crews being met with snubs. Pusha T and Killer Mike feature on Palmolive, one of the songs of the year, and fit so well into this world, even if Killer Mike is only on the hook.

On the penultimate song of ” Bandana“, titled “Education“, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Black Thought kill their verses. Mos Def especially is on fire and it’s refreshing to hear him again on a Madlib beat. All of them accompany Gibbs on the journey through the album and don’t outshine him, but just compliment him and Madlib greatly.

For years Madlib has been considered an elite producer, but on this album, his ability to produce a range of different beats was explored even further as we heard trap beats from him rivaling those of Kenny Beats and Metro Boomin. Freddie Gibbs is a wordsmith, a lyricist in its true form and it is this album that will begin to transcend him as an artist.

He has worked his way to the top of the game, and performances on songs like “Situations” and “Flat Tummy Tea” show his wordplay, his breath control, and his rhyming pattern are unparalleled. 

Bandana” is a marquee moment not just in these two’s careers, but hip hop in general. It is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the last decade and is sure to have something for every hip hop fan. This will be one listened to for years to come, a surefire classic. Stream it here now.

Words by Rohan Parmar

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