Hidden Gem: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

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Hard-hitting bars, stylish production, jazzy samples and infectious hooks make Bandana an unmissable release for any fans of hip-hop, casual or critical. Legends of the rap underground Freddie Gibbs and Otis ‘Madlib’ Jackson Jr. have teamed up once again for a much-anticipated follow up to their stellar 2014 project Piñata and did not disappoint one bit.

Such a unique and powerful collection of tracks was a tough act to follow and fans found themselves fearful of disappointment – fear that was quickly dispelled when lead single ‘Flat Tummy Tea’ dropped. More than just a cheeky, click-bait title: it’s an immediate and exhilarating banger that packs a dizzying amount of musical detail and lyrical prowess into its tight two and a half minute run-time. Its potency has not waned one bit since its release months ago and it stands strong amongst the full tracklist.

Thankfully the rest of the album packs a punch too. Acclaimed crate digger Madlib has once again put in a great shift crafting eclectic beats with mind-blowing depth and flavour using his talents to obtain and manipulate samples spanning fifty years and five continents. With total creative freedom Otis pays homage to the genres that made him such as soul, jazz and dancehall by picking and choosing only the very best drum and piano loops as well as dreamy female vocal lines to imbue the album with heart and personality. A stand-out sample for me is the lead melody and guitar sound from the first phase of previously mentioned track: ‘Flat Tummy Tea’ which ‘The Beat Konducta’ pinched from an obscure funk cover of The Godfather theme, funnily enough.

I would maintain that the finest Madlib produced tracks are still found on either his debut as the cartoon villain Quasimoto on his 1999 record The Unseen or his historic collaboration with hip-hop heavyweight MF DOOM on 2004’s Madvillainy. However,  it’s front-man MC and Gary, Indiana native Freddie Gibbs that shines brighter than ever on Bandana. His technical skill as a rapper would trounce almost any of his much younger contemporaries and he uses this in service of some very compelling storytelling. Between showy triplets and aggressive rhymes, Gibbs paints a picture of his entire life story, warts and all. A prevailing theme is of course the relationship Freddie has had with drugs and crime growing up and the ways he managed to stay afloat before he ever had a chance making a living rapping, but there is far more to the 37 year old’s tale. From losing old friends, being abandoned by major record labels and facing major depression to gaining a baby daughter in 2015, there are more relatable aspects of Freddie Gibbs than most ‘trap rappers’ out there today. The strange juxtaposition of both thug and fatherly life styles is best exemplified on the stonking great banger ‘Giannis‘, featuring Mablib’s fellow Oxnardian Anderson .Paak: “You’s a cartoon like Flip on the cover of Lucky Charms/Every mornin’ I wake up with my daughter, Dora Explorer/Then I get right back to the pot/Kitchen stankin’, that’s potty trainin”. Cooking crack and changing nappies, this album has it all.

Madlib and Freddie Gibbs’ Bandana is out now via ESGN/Keep Cool/Madlib Invazion/RCA.  Watch the music video for ‘Crime Pays’ below:

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