[MUSIC REVIEW] Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana (2019)
The long-awaited sequel to Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's previous collaborative album is another solid one. It's abundant with nostalgic old school beats that still manages to feel innovative and fresh and that marry Gibb's flow excellently. One of the best hip hop releases of the year thus far, however, not completely without problems.
Prolific producer Madlib and rapper Freddie Gibbs have previously displayed that they can create masterpieces together. Their previous collaboration Piñata (2014) was in many ways an unexpectedly successful one. Madlib, with a record collection that weighs about four tons and a penchant for odd samples, was able to challenge Freddie Gibbs who embodies the image of an orthodox gangster rapper. The combination was difficult to digest but equally beautiful. On new album Bandana we see a broken piñata, which I suppose hints that the duo is eager to evolve and not interested in winning cheap points on old merits.
Early on Bandana it's clear this project is also a tug of war between two highly individual artists. Where Madlib's former partner MF Doom used escapism and a comic book narrative to counter the fuzzy and sprawling productions, Gibbs uses dirty and straight forward social realism from the perspective of a drug pusher. In Crime Pays, it's made obvious that Gibbs doesn't give a hoot about insurances and medical appointments in the pursuit of money, beautifully enveloped by a cozy sample of Walt Barr's Free Spirit. When Gibbs occasionally drop his sometimes tiring drug anecdotes, we can see hints of a rebellious spirit (Flat Tummy Tea).
Sometimes it feels like Gibbs forgets to breathe between his lines. His hectic flow occasionally makes Bandana sound more like a long freestyle than a studio album. However, I would say that it's Madlib who pulls the heavy load as he tries to match Gibbs's charisma. When Madlib succeeds, as on Fake Names and Situations, the best song of the album, something quite magical arises. Bandana, like its predecessor Piñata, is a robust album with some gold grains blasted into its compact and messy soundscape.