A true audio crack masterpiece from beginning to end. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib have such a seamless and great chemistry that is like that of such great duos as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, or even Royce Da 5’9” and DJ Premier as PRhyme. When Gibbs and Madlib connect you know you are going to get nothing but dope rhymes over dope instrumentals, the way Hip-Hop is meant to be and that’s exactly what you get with the duo’s highly-anticipated and long-awaited, before it dropped back in June sophomore album, Bandana.
Already one of the most revered and respected emcees in all of Hip-Hop before connecting with Madlib for the duo’s debut collaboration album, Piñata, some five years ago. Whether it be being signed to a major label or apart of arguably the greatest XXL Freshmen list there was, it wasn’t till said album that the acclaimed Gangsta Rap emcee finally started to get his just due as not only a great Gangsta Rapper, but emcee. His aggressive and abrasively truly relatable street and coke tales finally starting to earn him the critical acclaim that’s usually only reserved for established veteran emcees. A true classic and masterpiece in its own right that showed the seamless great chemistry Gangsta Gibbs and Madlib have together. It really set the great foundation for this album.
If Piñata truly established the Gary, Indiana native as one of the best emcees of this generation, it’s with Bandana, that Gibbs truly cemented his place as one of the greatest emcees of all-time. No, not Top 5 or 10, or even 15, but at the very least probably somewhere in the top 20-25 or so range. The scary part being that he’s still in his prime and getting better too.
From the very beginning with the intro track, Obrigado, to the slow triumphant horns and great Hindu and Bollywood-inspired music samples that Madlib so expertly chopped into, Freestyle S**t, as well as throughout a lot of the album. Providing the perfect backdrop for Gibbs solid rhymes throughout most of the 46 minutes-plus run time. The seamless chemistry the duo has together that most probably thought couldn’t be topped after such a masterpiece in Piñata, is taking a notch further on Bandana. With the very aggressive and somewhat entertaining standout track, Half Manne Half Cocaine, that’s a track divided into two parts in which Gibbs raps about sex, wealth and life achievements. While the second part is about drug dealing and dirty money. The beat switch is very crazy and makes the track standout as one of the best on the album even more. Gibbs line of, “B***ch, I came out the womb on some gangster s**t!” Showing he’s as gangster and you will still get plenty of that patented thuggery we usually come to expect from Gangsta Gibbs throughout. The very smoothed out, Crime Pays, is yet another standout where he shows off his great, but still underrated storytelling abilities. As Freddie Kane glides over the very smooth Madlib production, as he raps with his signature and trademark cocaine bars a story about someone else from his hometown of Gary.
What really makes the album standout aside from the seamless and perfect chemistry that Gibbs and Madlib have together throughout, is the seamless transitions and segues from one track to the next to go with the hilariously funny skits, great cohesion and concepts. The beat switches throughout a lot of the album is like a Picasso masterpiece being painted and really brings Gibbs dope lyrics over Madlib’s stellar production even more to life. That and the duo bringing some of the dopest emcees in all of Hip-Hop along for the ride, really truly helps makes this not only the best Hip-Hop albums to drop this year, but one of the best in all of music so far this year. Which is also one of the best of the past several years and will be hard to top.
Speaking of bringing along some of the top emcees in all of Hip-Hop, Palmolive, which features Killer Mike and Pusha T is by far the best track on the album, and most Cocaine/Drug Dealer Rap fans dream collaboration. A drug deal rap masterpiece that’s not only the best track on the album, but among the best Hip-Hop/Rap tracks you will ever hear period. Pusha having what has so far been the verse of the year on it and will be really hard to top. I don’t think there’s been to many times I’ve ever made quite an ugly, eek face as I have during and after hearing a verse from an emcee as I did with his on this track. One of the standout verses from Pusha being, “The love of your life rap n***as wear fake watches. The serial number don’t match the gift boxes. The bezel on her ballon bleu do the Tinashe. The b***ch told me two-tone Rollies was to blasé (Yugh)!” The meat of some of the best tracks on the album being there with, Palmolive, Fake Names, Flat Tummy Tea and Situations. Flat Tummy Tea finding Gibbs giving his always raw raps over a very Vaudevillesque beat from Madlib about a travesty of sorts he has dealt with in America and is the perfect backdrop for his switched up webbed-flow midway through the very raw track. While Situations is the second best track on the album, just barely behind, Palmolive. The technique and verses on the track and how he unapologetically represents Vice Lord, showing how real he will always be to his Gangster no matter how big he gets is really bold and nobody except maybe the late great 2Pac, would be bold enough to do. That technique especially on the second verse and how he really went off to go with the crazy ass backdrop from Madlib really complimenting each other so perfectly.
While Gibbs will rightfully get a lot of attention for his stellar emceeing, Madlib’s production throughout really truly is the perfect balance for Kane’s lyrical chopper flow. The sampling and how he’s like a Young Quasimoto or Otis Jackson with how he’s able to so masterfully chop and manage to find airtight harmonies amid soul music, like a maestro at work. Whether it be the dark, yet dense up-tempo production from Madlib on the Anderson .Paak-featured, Giannis, the very soulfully backdrop and crazy loops/chants switch up on Cataracts or the very heavenly emotion on, Gat Damn. It will not be awarded, but should be and recognized with a big ass courtesy of some kind. The production on this record from Madlib really cementing his very own place too, as one of the top 10 Hip-Hop producers of all-time.
Gibbs really sounds the most poised and mature he has ever been so far of his career on this album. Like he has really transcended and just gets even better with each track throughout the album. But especially towards the latter part of the album with Cataracts, Gat Damn and the Black Thought and Yasiin Bey featured, Education. The latter being one of the most standout tracks on the album, as he shows he can hold his own with two of the best emcees of all-time. As they all try to educate the people about the suffering of African-Americans, and their struggles with imperialism and being institutionalized. Gibbs spitting such stellar verses as, “Education, trap-onomics, narcotic plug talk. My hands was right back in the birds soon as they took the ‘cuffs off. Gotta feed your fuckin’ wolves or they gon’ feed on a n***a. It’s quite ironic how all this ice’ll keep the heat on a n***a. My cousin beat me for a pack and I put the beam on a n***a. And I don’t gotta finesse the plug because I Deebo that n***a.” Counterbalancing this very standout guest verse from Black Thought, that is almost neck-and-neck with Pusha’s verse on Palmolive, as easily one of the best of the year. With, “Me, Freddie, Flaco, and Shot never forgot though. That Plymouth Rock landed on top of new Morocco. Couldn’t see who was firin’ shots, the shooter got low. And left a burnin’ cross on the lawn just like a pothole. I may not be here. I’m feelin’ like I might just leave before I start a fire or a fight. They sayin the six bands are higher for the flight. So I may be a hitman for hire for the night. If you’re figurin’ this man’s maniacal, you’re right.”
The very soulful closing track, Soul Right, is the perfect track to close such a classic masterpiece album too. As Gibbs raps about the urgency and struggle he and so many of us have throughout our lifes and how whether it’s the weathered effects of street life and how second opportunities must be seized at all costs, he has or the other internal struggles a lot of us have we can all relate. This opening second verse, “East side boy, my mama was the mail lady (Yeah). Brother and my sister got degrees but I got the yayo, baby (Yeah). Had to beat my case, I can’t turn Irie to a jail baby. B***h, I weigh that shit up in my crib, I think your scale shady. Pass it off and drop it like Stockton, bitch, I facilitate.” Something many of us can relate to with how some of us may have degrees, but others have to go different routes we don’t really want to, but are forced to, like flipping caine. Such as Gibbs had to, compared to his brothers more wholesome route of college.
A true classic masterpiece from beginning to end that’s very relatable and not only the best Hip-Hop/Rap Album of the Year, which will be very hard to top, but one of the best albums to drop across all music so far this year. Bandana, is one of those albums that just gets better with each listen and will probably down the line be recognized as the true breakthrough album that’s among some of the best albums of all-time in both Gibbs and Madlib already stellar discography. It should be nominated for a Grammy Award, but as we know most likely wouldn’t be, but as long as it touches the fans and supporters of both Gibbs and Madlib and true Hip-Hop/Rap fans that’s all that really matters though. This is definitely a real groundbreaking Cocaine Rap and just pure dope Hip-Hop/Rap masterpiece and album that will be in rotation for many years to come and I can see even later down the line being used as an educational tool in some college classrooms. A huge bow and salute to both Gibbs and Madlib for bringing and delivering us such a classic and masterpiece.