Freddie Gibbs and Madlib Bandana Madlib Invazion/RCA Records
The idea of a hookup between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib raised more than a few eyebrows ahead of their first crossover record in 2014. Both were favourites in their own right with critics and aficionados, and both had flirted only sporadically with the mainstream. As far as common ground went, that was about it. After all, Gibbs was a no-nonsense street rapper from hardscrabble, small-town Indiana. Madlib’s production, meanwhile, usually reflected the sunny climes of his native Los Angeles, as well as his fascination with making off-kilter beats out of obscure samples.
Still, Piñata was an unlikely success, not least because it felt as if both men allowed themselves to be pulled into the other’s creative stream. Gibbs’ raw, uncompromising lyrics became more reflective, while Madlib gravitated towards gritty, boom-bap backing. There’s a similar spirit of genuine collaboration in evidence on Bandana, defined by the same sort of giddy stylistic back-and-forth that, at its best, is a thrill.
The two flip the switch between moody aggression on Massage Seats to hazy West Coast throwback mode with Palmolive. The latter is a standout that doesn’t just feature Killer Mike and Pusha T, but challenges them to match Gibbs and Madlib. They both rise to it. At 16 tracks, it occasionally feels a touch too indulgent, but that’s easily forgiven when you wonder how many more records of this quality we might get if more of hip-hop’s key figures were as open-minded as these two.