In tune with the sobering reality of life



Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

ESGN/Keep Cool/ Madlib Invazion/ RCA

4 stars

The second collaborative album by rapper Freddie Gibbs and renowned producer Madlib, Bandana, melds two prominent aspects of hip-hop.

Gibbs, who hails from Indiana, is brilliant in narrating the sobering reality of life on the streets while Madlib masterfully chops and splices samples from dusty old records and pairs them with experimental, cutting-edge beats.

The album comes a few years late as Gibbs was wrongly accused of sexual assault and was incarcerated in France and Austria. He was later acquitted.

While in jail, with Madlib’s beats still fresh in his head, Gibbs continued working his rhymes.

The result is a philosophical bent to the vivid anecdotes from volatile lives racked by drugs and violence.

Crime Pays, with a sample from obscure 1979 soul song, Free Spirit by Walt Barr, sees Gibbs ruminate on how drug-dealing might bring fast money, but is still a life in bondage (“Diamonds in my chain, yeah, I slang but I’m still a slave/Twisted in the system, just a number listed on the page”).

On Flat Tummy Tea, where he muses on the United States’ history of slavery, he raps about prioritising all the wrong things, such as spending money on sneakers instead of on homes or investments.

Madlib often toys with tempo, seamlessly switching between two seemingly disparate beats and samples on Half Manne Half Cocaine, Fake Names and Cataracts. Gibbs responds and changes his flow accordingly, affirming the symbiotic relationship between the pair.

Warm crackles permeate the tracks, a nod to vintage vinyls.

Just like in his highly influential work on 2004 hip-hop classic Madvillainy, Madlib plays around with samples from old-school Hindi films.

Giannis, which features a chorus and verse from Grammy-winning rapper/producer Anderson .Paak, samples Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar’s Aasman Ke Neeche from the 1967 spy thriller Jewel Thief.

Freestyle S*** loops the horns on Revelation Funk’s 1970 sensual Elastic Lover while Palmolive samples The Sylvers’ 1973 R&B/soul tune Cry Of A Dreamer.

Gibbs displays some dodgy stances, most notably espousing an anti-vaccination line on Palmolive, which also features savvy verses from guest rappers Pusha-T and Killer Mike.

Still, the tunes can get fiercely political, most notably on Education, which grapples with the struggles of African-Americans and features cutting verses from rap luminary Yasiin Bey, also known as Mos Def (“The jail overcrowded, they emptied out the school”) and Black Thought from The Roots (“I focused on sinnin’ when winnin’ was not an option”).