Reclusive beat wizard, Madlib, and charismatic veteran rapper, Freddie Gibbs, first partnered on 2014’s Pinata. The album went over well with hip-hop heads but was pegged as a one-off collaboration. The duo is proving opposites still attract, reuniting for their second offering, Bandana, which is quickly ascending the list of 2019’s best rap releases.
Bandana is an immersive, dreamlike canvas of Lib’s signature jazz and soul samples, and Gibbs’ visceral rhymes. Released only four weeks ago, its already gaining mentions in 2019’s Best Of ranks alongside efforts from Tyler the Creator, Big K.R.I.T., Your Old Droog, and others.
For Madlib, Bandana adds to his voluminous catalog and growing mystique. The producer famously doesn’t own a cell phone, shuns most press, and communicates with many collaborators only via email. Much of Bandana’s source material comes from six CD’s worth of beats made for Kanye West’s Life of Pablo Sessions in 2016. “Freddie Gibbs took all of it and rapped over everything. Kanye waited too long,” he told Rolling Stone this year.
Its a full circle of sorts for Gibbs. Unceremoniously dropped by Interscope Records in 2007, he released a slew of solo and mixtape material. His unvarnished street tales of deals, death, and destruction kept him an independent fan favorite. As a result, Bandana’s major-label success via Keep Cool/RCA Records feels like a huge moment for Gibbs who at 37 years old, is a decade-plus into his rap career.
Bandana TV Spot Featured On Adult Swim
The outcome of the collaboration is otherworldly. Madlib’s freewheeling, deeply-mined production combined with Gibbs’ diverse phrasing is head-spinning and at times completely transporting. Bandana instantly drops the listener into the pair’s woozy dreamworld. Accordingly, the album’s social media and marketing rollouts include cartooned TV spots. They depict Gibbs as a Zebra and Madlib as his alter ego Quasimoto, riding into the Hollywood hills amidst a fiery, psychedelic landscape.
The tracklist on Bandana includes several well-placed guests and features. Pusha T and Killer Mike rhyme over wailing soul samples on “Palmolive.” The seemingly omnipresent Anderson .Paak stops in to provide verse and chorus on the bouncy “Giannis.” Lastly, Yasiin Bey AKA Mos Def pairs with The Roots’ Black Thought for “Education.”