'Bandana' : Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Album Review

On the second installment of this cult-hero collaboration, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib kick it into high gear, taking the smooth transitions and vintage samples from Pinata and adding an extra layer of mind-numbing speed and structure (or lack thereof). The two genre heroes feed off each-others Mach-5 energy, creating a project that will certainly cement itself as a penultimate triumph in underground rap.



There's something about a dynamic duo that brings satisfaction to almost any facet of life.

Jordan & Pippen,

Peanut butter & jelly,

Carter Ferryman & inconsistent article release times,

Kanye & Cudi.

It seems as though, through trials and tribulations, these pairs stick together - bringing out qualities that either would have trouble emulating by themselves. Now, I can't read your mind, but i'm assuming that, unless you are an avid listener of rap music, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib aren't names that ring a bell. If this is the case, allow me to provide a brief synopsis on each artist.

Madlib is, without a doubt, one of the great producers to ever step into a recording studio. An Oxnard native, Madlib gained instant legend status from Madvillainy, his 2003 collaboration with MF Doom that will almost certainly stand the test of time as the greatest underground rap album in the history of the genre. You see, Madlib doesn't rap - he's nothing short of a pure producer, using vintage samples and soft, 70's sounds on the vast majority of his instrumentals.

Freddie Gibbs is the dark horse in this duo. Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Gibbs has found sanctuary in keeping pure "gangster rap" alive; his ability to combine true-to-life experiences with silky-smooth flow resonates flashes of Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube.

Up until their initial collaboration, Pinata, Gibbs and Madlib didn't seem like a pairing for the ages. Madlib excels in beats that are complimented by word-heavy rappers from the "comic book age" (see MF Doom, Czarface, Scarface, Viktor Vaughn), so bringing a deep-voiced, gangster rapper into the equation seemed like a formidable challenge.

Something just clicked.

Freddie Gibbs is one-of-a-kind. Sure, he largely emulates the spirits of gangster rappers before him, but his Chicago-influence makes his style a perfect match for the preachy, sample-heavy beats that Madlib has become a master of. As a result, Pinata was met with universal acclaim - as it found itself on numerous year-end lists for rap albums of the year.

For this reason, the lead-up to Bandana was long and painstaking. Now that it's finally here, I can say confidently that it surpasses the hype. Let's start with an overview:

For starters, Madlib's production is some of the most deeply-layered instrumentation i've ever heard in my life. Bandana is much faster than Pinata, so accordingly Madlib turned his talents into overdrive. Accordingly, Freddie Gibbs cadence and rhyme schemes are violently beautiful, taking numerous twists and turns from song to song.

"Half Manne Half Cocaine" is a song fit for a riot-squad. Halfway through it's runtime, Madlib pivots the instrumental from a high-speed reflection piece to downright "fight muzik". Freddie pace takes a leap for the history books, and in an instant the listener wants to roundhouse a police officer in the face.

That's how it feels, seriously.

The MC climax of Bandana is "Education" - as we see Yasiin Bey (better known as Mos Def), Black Thought and Freddie Gibbs tear apart a sample that was used just a year ago by Kanye West on "Bonjour" - this time, however, Madlib ramps up the tempo, creating a highly chaotic feel rather than the reminiscent vibe of it's predecessor.

And like, Black Thought and Mos Def? Say less.

Bandana is 46 minutes long, but upon first listen, it feels as if you're on a rollercoaster from hell. Before you have time to stop and reflect, Bandana ends the same way that Pinata began: a dark, clangy instrumental with no lyrics. In a way, Pinata and Bandana feels like one big loop - a circle that sees two artists clashing their infamous styles into one huge compilation of gangster rap and maximalist production.

Honestly, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib cannot be compared to the duos I opened this review with. Those pairings work well together primarily because they have similar tendencies. Gibbs and Madlib have nothing in common are more like Vodka and Sprite - were they meant to be combined? Probably not? But it works, and if you take in too much of either combination, you may feel a little queasy - Bandana is that hectic (in a good way).

Let me step on my soapbox for a second. Look, I don't want to sound like an old-head, but this is what rap is meant to be. Bandana has everything: true lyricism, sampling, creative exploration, smooth transitions, apropos features.

Bandana is like the Nazi Zombies "mystery box" of rap albums.

If that doesn't curb your enthusiasm, I don't know what will.

Bravo guys, bravo.

-Carter Ferryman-