Bandana album cover

Bandana – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Gansta Gibbs and Madlib are back. Five years removed from their instant classic Piñata, Gary, IN rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary hip-hop beat producer Madlib reunited to give the listeners Bandana. My brother’s roommate (shoutout Dan) put me on to their last collaborative album so when I heard the rumors then listened to the singles that dropped, I knew it would need a full review. If you saw my #firstlistenfriday post on Instagram about this album, you already know I like it. Let’s dive into the rough and dark world of Freddie Gibbs.

The Vocals:

There is so much to unpack in a Freddie Gibbs verse. An entire album of them makes it even more complicated. I had to listen to a lot of tracks a few times just to catch everything he was saying. He is very lyrical but at the same time so aggressive that it can be misleading what he is saying based on his tone of delivery. “Half Manne Half Cocaine” feels as if it has two personalities. We first hear the wealth loving, sex having side of Gibbs, but then the switch up hits and we listen to a verse from the drug slanging Gansta Gibbs.

A word of warning for anyone not fully familiar with Freddie Gibbs and his sound and style…this is not your new age drug rap about popping pills and drinking lean. This is hard core, drug lord kind of rap. It’s mean and dark and sometimes straight up depressing. Yet Gibbs still finds places to hit us with funny one liners and comical punchlines. My favorite line comes on “Massage Seats” with his line:

“Shot caller, put them shooters on you like D’Antoni
Top dollar, lock me up and I make the bond, no
Big baller, father, you my son like Lonzo”

You can’t discuss this album without talking about it’s guest list. Pusha T joins Freddie Gibbs for the first time on “Palmolive” and it feels like a collab that just makes sense. It’s also King Push’s best feature verse he has delivered this year. We also heard from Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey, Black Thought (pure wordsmith on “Education”), and Anderson Paak. The Pusha T, Black Thought, and Anderson Paak features really gave me a desire to here Gibbs do collab projects with each of these artists…especially Paak. “Giannis” is such a great song, with Paak’s smooth, sexual vocals contrasted with Gibbs’ rough baritone verses.

The Beats:

Madlib is a pure genius. I wrote in the Piñata review that “he is the definition of a crate digger; literally, sampling anything and everything and making it sound good” and this remains true. He immediately hits us with the opening track of “Obrigado” which is made purely from samples. It should be mentioned that right after this project dropped, Madlib took to Twitter to proclaim that he made every beat on his iPad. While some people took offense to this or felt it brought down the production value, I disagree. I love the samples, but they don’t always feel optimized for digital streaming. The beats are optimized for listening digitally using this method.

The beat on “Crime Pays” is weirdly vibey for Gibbs to be rapping over. It’s honestly a little strange to hear. I thought for sure that the female vocals sampled on “Massage Seats” was 070 Shake but after some research on Genius, it turned out that wasn’t the case. She would’ve been a great feature though, especially after how melodic she sounded on Daytona last summer. The beat switch ups throughout this project are really well done, and Gibbs handles it extremely well on his end…especially the switch up on “Fake Names”. My favorite beat by far though is on “Giannis”. That one just plain slaps. “Practice” is also very solid. Gibbs gets really introspective on this track but more importantly, the beat itself feels like it is super reflective, with it’s smoothed out vibe, calming hi-hats, and gospel background vocals.

The Production:

This project just moves and flows very well. Madlib is famous for chopping up albums with weird vocal samples. The ones used here didn’t feel like they broke up the general flow of the album much at all. It isn’t perfect but it definitely works. The track order here seems to be far more important as it feels somewhat progressive. There isn’t an overlapping story unraveling here but the early tracks seem to provide as general, surface level to Freddie Gibbs before diving deep into his rough, drug pushing lifestyle. I do; however, love the “sample” or skit at the end of “Situations” with the Cussing Pastor talking about “Fuck You Fridays”. That had to be the funniest part of the album when I first heard that.

The Essentials:

“Crime Pays”, “Palmolive”, “Fake Names”, and “Giannis”

The Rating:

This is a really really really good album. It is already sitting in my shortlist for top five albums of 2019. However, I don’t believe that this is an instant classic like Piñata was. It’s got everything I wanted to hear, from aggressive, yet comical verses by Gibbs to a beautiful track production from Madlib. I still felt like something was missing and can’t fully put my finger on it. That being said, this is still one of the best albums released this year and is easily a…

Solid 8

Gibbs is here to save the pretty lacking 2019 rap game and I am 100% here for it. Anytime Freddie Gibbs and Madlib hook up, you know it’s going to be a great listening experience.

– Heff

Gangsta Gibbs and Madlib
Madlib and Freddie Gibbs – Billboard

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