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Published on August 14th, 2019 | by voxx

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Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Bandana

The underground rap stars reunite – and raise their game…

A product of America’s rust belt, US rapper Freddie Gibbs once rhymed that his hometown Gary, Indiana, was a “land of lost hope”. Not that he’s let it hold him back, even if four studio albums and multiple mixtapes haven’t always plotted a straight character development for his defiantly raw, post-gangster act. One album, though, that did hit the mark was 2014’s blaxploitation-inspired Piñata. Recorded with veteran cut-up maestro Madlib, it’s a double act they reprise here with a warmth and energy that suggests they should share a studio more often.

As with the late J Dilla, Madlib’s dazzling sample collage and virtuoso beat-slicing could render a less assured rapper than Gibbs irrelevant. But there’s real chemistry to the soul-infused ‘Crime Pays’, its dope-slinger vignettes offset by lyrical cosmic jazz, and wryly humorous ‘Flat Tummy Tea’, which cuts together references to Instagram-friendly herbal remedies and slavery reparations against a soundtrack of psychedelic garage rock.

Kindred spirits Killer Mike and Pusha T lend extra hustle to the ‘70s-styled slow jam ‘Palmolive’ and West Coast star Anderson Paak gives the Wu Tang-like ‘Giannis’ husky urgency, while the closing title track plays off the brooding pulse of Jamaican dancehall, assisted by gruff deejay Assassin. Yet for all the walk-ons, this remains a two-man show that celebrates the MC/producer relationship at the heart of hip-hop – and allows both talents to shine at their brightest level for years.

- By Jake White


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