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Album review: Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s ‘Piñata’

Suave rapper and renowned Produce collaborate, produce legendary album

By Brad Spudich | March 26, 2014

Tags: Music Reviews

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Freddie Gibbs and Madlib perfectly encapsulate each other’s strengths on Piñata, a collaborative album that blends prodigious production with a smooth flow reinforced by lyrical proficiency.

Madlib flaunts his dense musical knowledge and pulls samples across a variety of genres to manufacture innovative beats. He is arguably the greatest living producer, backed by his musical prowess and consistent ingenuity. And for the first time in 10 years since his work with MF Doom, he has someone whose delivery and lyrics are up to par with his production.

Gibbs exhibits his ability to narrate his life as a native of Gary, Ind., a city known for its crime and murder rates, without dependence on undistinguished hooks and repetitive yapping over clichéd trap beats. He’s a ‘gangster rapper,’ but he’s conscious and he acknowledges his behavior without hubris or excessive remorse.

Gibbs’ passionate and smooth-baritone delivery perfectly complements the complexities of Madlib’s production. Madlib’s jazz-and-soul-inspired beats are perfect for Gibbs, who propitiously stays with the beat to create an admirable fusion between their two styles.

Piñata is a sophisticated introspection in which Gibbs reflects on the necessity to break the law in order to survive. In “Thuggin’,” he confesses that he’ll do almost anything for money even if it means selling drugs to his family members.

As a lesson in “the science of the street rap,” Gibbs addresses his misdeeds: killing, selling drugs, his time spent in jail and the accompanying paranoia and guilt. He accepts that his life isn’t necessarily admirable but obligatory.

On Gibbs’ developmental path, from a gangbanger in the heart of America to recording in Los Angeles with renowned artists, Gibbs acquired plenty of critique and enemies but he doesn’t seem worried whatsoever. He sticks to his own standards — no watered down “studio gangster” rap, only the truth.

Gibbs takes direct shots at Young Jeezy in “Real,” a hard-hitting diss track where he makes it clear he thinks Jeezy is a fake. Addressing their longstanding beef after Jeezy dropped him from his label CTE World, Gibbs assures “the world ain’t big enough” for both of them.

Easily his best full-length work, Piñata establishes Gibbs’ craft. Cold-blooded and quick-witted, Gibbs sits perfectly on Madlib’s beats, cultivating one of the greatest hip-hop records in years.

MOVE gives Piñata 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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