“Bandana” has finally arrived, and the long-anticipated follow up to Madlib and Freddie Gibbs's 2014 collaborative project “Pinata” exceeds expectations. Both fans and critics alike praised their latest body of work. For 46 straight minutes, Freddie Gibbs cements himself as one of the greatest rappers to rhyme over Madlib's sly production. “Bandana” is Gibbs's first release under a major label. Listeners can enjoy a wide variety of beats, samples and moods representative of Madlib's eclectic taste. Gibbs is a verbal ninja on "Bandana," his lyrical prowess proves this is what he does best. While this is not a new fact for fans, "Bandana," acts as a testament to the duos' abilities as artists.
Madlib samples Wee's "Teach Me How" for "Cataracts," the luscious sample sets the foundation for Freddie's slick bars. Freddie reflects about the mistakes before fame. The song demonstrates why the duo work so well together. The rapid-fire delivery from Gibbs is seamless, as he raps "Seem like my actions was devil sent, I can't sympathize/F**k Generation X, this generation genocide/Your social stat make you fantasize about a homicide/To me, the God Allah is the black man personified/Anticipatin' and killin' my own in search of wealth.” These powerful stanzas pair perfectly with Madlib’s hearty production.
On "Fake Names," Gibbs is as pensive as ever, questioning the price of fame and the cost it has on his immediate circle. "Shit's so real/Gotta use fake names/Every time I sleep, dead faces, they occupy my brain (My brain)/Erica said I never changed (Never changed)/Lifestyles of the insane." The instrumental morphs from broken boom-bap into what sounds like reel-to-reel film. The second half is choppy, to say the least, the muted woodwinds juxtapose the depth of Freddie's muddy verse, which is one of the reasons why you should check this song out.
"Flat Tummy Tea"
On “Flat Tummy Tea,” Freddie Gibbs turns his back on everyone. "Flat Tummy Tea" is an honest, boisterous track, the drums hit hard and the bass is grainy. On a Genius "Verified" episode Freddie explained, "I wrote most of this shit when I was locked up, so I think that's a testament to the power of Madlib; because these muthaf**kin' beats were stuck in my head the whole time I was in the cell. That's all I had." In the most desperate of times, Freddie found hope and security in Madlib’s production, building much-needed intensity to the overall message of the song, flexing the complexities of human emotions through an intense distorted performance.
The fourth track on the album, “Crime Pays,” opens with an intricate jazz guitar lick, followed by what sounds like a Rhoades keyboard sample that sounds like dreamy elevator music. Paired with Freddie's hypnotic flow, the verse begins as he tells of his days as a dope dealer. While the lyrical content of the song consists of gritty and honest recollections of his mistakes and vices, the instrumental features soft and hypnotic samples. Freddie expresses the duality of a life of crime and how it's often over-romanticized, rapping, "Made it through my whole month with lights, but I've seen brighter days." This can also be further explored in the chorus as he also begins to look at the power of choices, "You got control to start again and do it right...look to the sky and you will feel how to live a life that's real."
"Education" ft. Yasiin Bey & Black Thought
Education marks the beginning of the end of the masterfully crafted "Bandana." In its essence, "Education," is theatrical, it features both Yasiin Bey and Black Thought, the track opens with an eloquent piano riff followed by the angelic sound of a children's choir. Yasiin Bey and Black Thought act as the voice of reason, talking about failing school systems, the plight of black children and the consequences on society as a whole. Gibbs also speaks of life in the streets from the perspective of someone who is a product of the failed American school system.
Gibbs and Madlib confirm that they can't be put in a box, constantly showing fans their versatility. "Bandana" is a testament to Gibbs and Madlib’s mastery of their craft, proving they aren’t bound by any limit or style.