Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

Madlib and Freddie Gibbs continue to draw the best out of each other on Bandana, the spectacular follow-up to Piñata

Album Review by Joe Creely | 28 Jun 2019
  • Freddie Gibbs  & Madlib – Bandana
Album title: Bandana
Artist: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Label: RCA
Release date: 28 Jun

It’s been an intense few years for Freddie Gibbs since the release of his and Madlib’s debut collaborative project Piñata. Despite spending 2016 fighting and ultimately being acquitted of a rape charge in Austria, Gibbs has put out a project a year since Piñata and has solidified his position as one of the most consistent rappers around. Madlib has been similarly busy putting out project after project, from producing Kanye West tunes to collaborative efforts with Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring.

To some extent Bandana stylistically feels like a continuation and development of Piñata. The initial imperious majesty of Cataracts would have fit perfectly well as one of that record's braggadocio moments, but as it slowly becomes more skeletal, leaving little to accompany Gibbs’ increasingly paranoid bars but rattles and indistinct yelps, something murkier emerges. Similarly, Giannis maintains this lushness in its twinkling keys, but Gibbs and Anderson .Paak craft a damning indictment of rampant industries of exploitation.

On top of this Madlib introduces a style of production that swaps out the technicolor kaleidoscopes of Piñata for something altogether darker. The spaces are more cramped, the samples more jarring and dissonant. These tunes perfectly suit the more emotive end of Gibbs’ husky growl. On Half Manne Half Cocaine he goes from skittering between twitchy trap hi-hats to riding a wonky cymbal pattern like it’s nothing. Situations is all rattling drums and eerie disembodied voices, as Gibbs raps about his past legal issues in a voice halfway between insolence and quiet panic.

Across its 15 tracks, Madlib’s constant beat switches make it feel more like one piece rather than a series of divided tunes, and you're left with a stunning collage of Gibbs’ headspace: flawed, politicised, desperate to change but tied by circumstance to the things he needs to escape. Two things that are never in doubt throughout the record are Madlib’s absurd skill for combining amorphous instrumental textures with hard snapping drums and Gibbs’ ability to lord over any beat put before him.

Listen to: Cataracts, Half Manne Half Cocaine, Fake Names