June 15, 2019

Retrospective Review: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Piñata Review

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Piñata Review

In order to prepare for their hotly anticipated sophomore album Bandana by hip-hop duo, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, I wanted to take a step back and look at their first collaborative record together, Piñata, released half a decade ago. Piñata came at a time I never knew I needed. Madlib was an inspiration for me for many years, having followed his multiple alter egos Quasimoto, Yesterday's New Quintet, The Beat Konducta, and The Loop Digga. His albums opened my mind to the world of hip-hop with the masterpiece alt-hip-hop album, Madvillainy, which was a team-up of Madlib's beats and MF DOOM's narrative rap flow, as well as The Unseen, the debut Quasimoto release that blew my mind up with his stream-of-consciousness, jazz-infused, hazy raps, all wrapped in a sleazy, cartoon swine. Naturally, I was curious in this newly announced collaborative effort.

Piñata opens with Supplier, a bouncy African drum beat, along with narration by a man describing the motivation and drive to get a dollar, no matter the cost. It sets the scene for the main themes of the album: drug-fueled violence in black communities, thugging, and rising to the top in the fight for survival. It's raw and unapologetic and it paints a picture with 90's hip-hop style, and gangster film strings such as those in Deeper, and Shitsville. Bomb featuring Raekwon is a special track which harkens back to the days of the rise of the Wu-Tang Clan, and it's another example of an album which has its fingers on the pulse of classic hip-hop while still making a current modern-day classic.

Plenty of songs make their mark with addictive samples and beats, and Freddie Gibbs elevates the magic that Madlib lays on tape with a talented flow and storytelling prowess. Examples of this phenomenal pairing can be found on nearly every track of Piñata, but some highlights of their teamwork include songs like Thuggin', which plays in the vein of Freddie's day in the life, Real, an offensive and aggressive diss track, and the unbelievably laid-back Robes featuring Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt. This is just a small selection though, and omitting any tracks does them a great injustice because they all have to be heard to be believed. Broken, Knicks, Shame, and the title track, Piñata all are huge heavy hitters and nostalgic personal favorites as well.

Ultimately, there are few words that can describe the brilliant elements that makeup Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's first collaborative album. Piñata is the essence of classic hip-hop, where it's hardcore, laid-back, vulnerable, and real all at different critical points of the listening experience. I'd highly recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of either artist in order to prepare for what fire is to be released in their follow-up collaboration, Bandana, later this month.

Piñata - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Thuggin', Shame, Piñata