Madlib and Freddie Gibbs: ‘Piñata’ Album Review

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Perhaps the weirdest combination in hip-hop this year, Madlib deals with the production as Freddie Gibbs holds the mic. The duality of soulful, jazz-inspired beats mixed with hard-core gangsta rap definitely works in the long run. There are moments where Piñata is on a singular pathway, though, in contrast, it felt a little stretched. Each of the 17 tracks are well polished and Gibbs’ persona remains continuous, ultimately becoming one-dimensional at times. After my first listen, it’s quite clear that Madlib is the catalyst and Gibbs puts the icing on the cake. Piñata, in retrospect, would be considered an important release. I couldn’t be any happier with the end result. 

Supplier” begins with a meaningful message, mixed with an instrumental loop in the background. If anyone forgot this was a rap album, the second track, “Scarface,” perfectly sets the tone, implementing police sirens and turning the scenery dark and gritty. “Deeper” is where Gibbs’ lyricism is tested. It meets the expectations. A tale of a girl, in which Gibbs goes through an emotional epic, is well documented. It’s only until “Bomb ft. Raekwon” where Piñata takes another stride. After the first few seconds of the track, I immediately fell in love with its direction. It contains practically everything I want to hear in a record. Madlib is on steroids with the production and Gibbs’ content, mixed with a unique flow, is well done. In any sort of gangsta rap record, a Raekwon feature is ideal. Easily one of the best verses on Piñata, the Chef will always have a story to tell to the masses.

Shitsville” sounds as though Gibbs has something to prove to the rap scene. “B***h, you acting like my shit don’t stank” is an ode to the legendary Outkast track, “Roses.” The successive tracks after “Bomb” fail to fall short. Back in 2011, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs released Thuggin EP. The biggest surprise is that it returns on Piñata and is still a master class effort from the duo. The idea of listing “Thuggin” right in the middle of the album was not a bad move at all. It’s no doubt the most moving song on the entire project. “Real” is typical Gibbs on beast mode. The first part explains the acronym, Real (Remember Everybody Ain’t Loyal). It’s fascinating proof of how Madlib has the ability to change the scene of each track. The first part of “Real” brings a sense of fear. Every iconic record has a dark horse, and “Real” plays the part almost automatically. The transition turns into Gibbs taking stabs at Young Jeezy. Madlib adds spice on a collection of samples, all referencing Young Jeezy. Madlib produces a flawless victory on that matter, where he uses a recording that portrays an individual getting ambushed by a couple of goons.

Madlib constantly manages to excel, although, that’s where Gibbs loses slight momentum. The major drawback is that Piñata never went in for the kill. There are a handful of standout tracks, but it just falls a little short towards the end. The all-star cast in “Pinata ft. Domo Genesis, G-Wiz, Casey Veggies, Sulaiman, Meechy Darko and Mac Miller” is 8 minutes of lacklustre, unengaging bars from artists I believed would at least bring a little life to the track. As far as an anti-climax goes, “Piñata” typifies this.

The message is clear and simple. Never underestimate the power of hip-hop, as it comes in all shapes and sizes. If anyone believed Madlib and Freddie Gibbs would just be another rap release, they were wrong. Even though it is nowhere near as iconic as Madvillainy, the triumph should remain unquestioned.