Five years ago, a collaboration album changed the w– OK, maybe not changed the entire world, but in the hip-hop world, it was immediately lauded as what would be a classic in the making: Pinata by Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and Oxnard-born producer Madlib.
First previewed as a few EPs, the collaboration seemed weird on paper, but once it came out, the two pulled it off to major critical acclaim from critics and fans alike hailing it as one of the best rap albums of 2014. It’s probably the most well-known collaborative project with Madlib’s name attached since….. well, Madvillainy with MF Doom (Madvillain) and Champion Sound with J Dilla (Jaylib).
Now, time has passed since then, and while we did eventually get confirmation of a follow-up, they had been working on separate projects in the meantime, with Madlib doing another collaboration album with MED & Blu with Bad Neighbor in 2015 and producing tracks for Anderson. Paak and Kanye West in 2016. As for Gibbs, following from an awful 2016 he was having, he released some small projects (You Only Live 2wice, Freddie, Fetti – with Curren$y and The Alchemist) to whet our appetite for the next collaboration. Also, this is the first MadGibbs project under a major label (RCA/Keep Cool Records), and yes, Madlib Invazion and ESGN are still part of that, too.
I’ve been anticipating the release of this album since… well, since it was announced, and with 4 tracks released prior to the album (although it’s weird that the titular track isn’t on the album), I had very high expectations of this being one of my favorites of 2019.
And with that said…
You know, this is the second time this year an artist I really liked and admired has released an album after a 5-year gap.
Oh, and as for those expectations… they were met with great results.
Now you know what you’re getting into when Freddie Gibbs raps, and he has those cocaine/ dope-dealing bars and his street-wise wisdom with that hard gangsta edge to it, all backed up with the mysterious and wonderful beats of Madlib. The guy even made the beats from an iPad because he’s just that damn good. You’ll also noticed quite a few trap beats in the production of these songs, much like what you’ll find in a solo Freddie Gibbs project, and those beats are damn fine as well. He still has all the samples and loops that you know and love from him.
Much like with every Freddie Gibbs project he’s released, there are some elements of story-telling in these tracks. One example is in “Situations” where he describes the dire situations in his life like a cousin taking two bullets in the head and his uncle stabbing somebody while he was playing Pac-Man.
There’s also this good bar from “Massage Seats,” referencing DMX.
Golden State the roster, my garage deep
Floating in the foreign on massage seats
Yeah, keep, keep designer on a broad feet
I been water whippin’ Earl Simmons, all my dawgs eat
44 Bulldog, all my dawgs bite
There’s even one line where Gibbs references the time Tupac was supposed to be in Menace II Society but got fired and beat up the Hughes Brothers for it.
I go Makaveli on Hugh’s brothers, bitch, who the menace?
“Freestyle Shit” goes on with him discussing how when the music thing wasn’t working for him, he went back to doing the dope game and even running with folks who will kill for the dollar bill. Thankfully by the time the music was working, he didn’t even need that urge anymore.
“Gat Damn” touches on how he misses his uncle Greg aka Big Time Watts (as you heard him on that skit from their last album) who died in March 2017 for unknown reasons (and he is surely missed on this album), as well as recalling the time Gibbs was locked up in Austria, and all they served was pork (given that Gibbs is Muslim):
Ah, goddamn, I’m callin’ Lam’
MoneyGram, go send the bail, I’m in a jam
In the jail, I’m in the cell, can’t see the fam
Say my prayers, alhamdulillah, no bacon ham
Bacon ham, and cold salami, that’s all they serve us
Stomach hurtin’, the devil working, but I ain’t nervous
Beat the verdict, but lost a milli’, guess life ain’t perfect
Whippin’ birdies, the devil working, but I ain’t nervous
“Half Manne Half Cocaine” comes with a beat switch-up during the “Cocaine” part that goes absolutely hard like a motherfucker. “Palmolive” is my favorite track of the album at this point with that sample from The Slyvers, a killer hook from Killer Mike and an excellent guest verse from Pusha T, adding on that Obama opened his doors to him, knowing his past and all. I wish Killer Mike had a verse to himself, but his hook did satisfy me, and while Freddie’s bars are good in here, one line… yeah, you know the line. The less said about that, the better.
Since I mentioned that feature, they kept their list very tight and only have features on 3 songs, with the other single “Giannis” featuring Anderson .Paak along with these choice bars:
Uh, turnt up like Tony juggin’ the speaker phones
Fuck Sosa, bitch, I got soldiers and I put my people on
2009, a bitch food stamps what I was eatin’ on
Got four-inch quarters, half-nine pieces on my Nokia phone
Squad, diamonds make haters stay on the job
Keepin’ a baby .380 with me like Khaled stay with Asahd
Bump that poison poppy seed, the Afghani shit from the mob
You’s a cartoon like Flip on the cover of Lucky Charms
Every mornin’ I wake up with my daughter, Dora Explorer
And especially from Anderson:
‘Caine all in the blood (Uh-huh)
Shots to the brain, Snow on tha Bluff (Uh-huh)
Calls for a truce, but truce came with snubs (Uh-huh)
Bodies hit the pavement, money came for months (I wasn’t done!)
Hey, ‘caine paid the bills (Uh-huh)
Penthouse the suite, sugar on the hill (Uh-huh)
Some will get free but most will get killed (Uh-huh)
This joint was, as expected, great, and also I wish Madlib would have done production on the more recent Anderson .Paak albums.
The last joing with features on it is “Education” with Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) and Black Thought, and oddly enough the sample on this track, “Dance Music” by R.D. Burman, was also used in “Bonjour” by Nas from his NASIR album last year. That beat delivers a sense of chill on here contrasting with lyrics about the history of African-American struggles with imperialism and institutionalized racism. I did recognize that lo-fi sound to it, especially from Yasiin’s part, and I love the bars from there as well as Black Thought bringing his A-Game on here too.
I can go on and on and on about the bars on this album all day, but I don’t want to overdo it with that. Anyway, this album fulfilled every expectation I had and then some with changes that worked. Gibbs and Madlib still have that chemistry with the former delivering his lyricism/story-telling and the latter’s eccentric ways of making a beat. Five years of waiting was worth it to hear this, and they have delivered another gem in our hands. We got another Album of the Year contender for myself!
Final Verdict: Buy It. Crime pays and I will pay $ to get this album.
Bandana is on Madlib Invazion/ESGN/Keep Cool/RCA Records and is available on CD, vinyl, digital download and on streaming services.