Review: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib—Piñata


With three EPs already in your iTunes, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have finally unveiled their latest project for your hard drive, originally entitled Cocaine Piñata, but now simply known as just Piñata. The Gary, Indiana native, Freddie Gibbs, and the LA-based producer/composer, Madlib, are unofficially known to the underground hip-hop community as “MadGibbs.” Some would venture to say that the collaboration may seem strange, however, the music speaks for itself, as Gibbs’ raspy voice, razor-sharp flow and explicitly vivid lyrics, combined with Madlib’s soulfully smooth, spaced-out and artistically-imperfect production compliment each other quite well creating a new, refreshing sound.

When asked about the conceptual origin of the album, Gibbs was quoted as saying, “Piñata is a gangster Blaxploitation film on wax. I will show you my flaws, I’ll show you what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve fucked up at.” Madlib has stated that Gibbs is one of few rappers who could handle a complete project produced by him due to his under-quantized drums, which gives his production more of a human feel. Gibbs has also revealed that the inception of the title came to him in the form of a dream which consisted of small children beating cooked cocaine out of a piñata, admitting in an interview that the idea in itself was quite crazy. The album features A-list appearances from artists like Raekwon and Scarface, as well as new up-and-comers like Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, Meechy Darko, and Casey Veggies among others.

With tracks like “Real,” where Gibbs corners his former boss Jeezy over an esoteric, eerie beat, while delivering deep-cutting lyrics laced with left hook ad-libs, and “Bomb”, a synth-backed street lullaby crime narrative featuring Raekwon, it is hard not to indulge in a little crime yourself while listening to this album. Records like “Robes,” which samples “Sweet Dreamer” by Lenny White and features guest appearances from Odd Future members Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt, and “Lakers,” a Gibbs and Ab-Soul tribute to LA, it is safe to say there is a contrast in intonation, a balanced distribution of dark undertones and light overcast. The last two, in particular, hint to the listener that Gibbs may be on his way to conquering his past, although it is made clear it is still very much a part of what made him the man he is today.

Piñata easily has the potential to be crowned album of the year and will most likely develop into a cult classic, with it’s periodic skits from black crime flicks and an overall solid transition in sound reinforced with contribution from industry peers. In comparison to Gibbs’ previous bodies of work like the DJ Drama-hosted BFK, this album takes more of a “grown man with scars” perspective with less rolling hi-hats while managing to maintain a level of ignorance. Whether you’re an older fan who grew up listening to the Geto Boys and Wu-Tang or a newer fan riding the “Drill”/West Coast wave, this is one album you don’t want to sleep on. If summed up in two words, “Dapper Don” is a phrase that comes to mind, at times, Gibbs is getting his hands dirty, but mostly, he’s gracefully maneuvering like a G over Madlib beats.—Colin Petrik

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