Ever since Madlib and MF DOOM’s magnum opus Madvillainy was released 10 years ago, Madlib has been propelled to the front of the underground hip-hop scene under his many monikers (Quasimoto/Lord Quas, the Loopdigger, the Beat Konducta and Otis Jackson Jr.). His remixes, sampling and instrumentals are instantly loveable and he is easily one of the best hip-hop producers around. Freddie Gibbs however, is a little-known, up and coming and arguably unremarkable rapper originating from Philadelphia with a style emulating that of 2pac (a very infamous comparison to make when talking hip-hop). Gibbs has often felt unnecessary in the modern rap scene, with lyrics and flows causing little excitement or impact and thus this collaboration was an unexpected announcement from the two.
But after a few EP releases it was clear that MadGibbs was a promising project. The three tracks that appeared on the album – ‘Thuggin’, ‘Shame’ and ‘Deeper’ – are easily highlights on the LP, and generated a great deal of hype for the release. Perhaps it is due to these expectations though that Piñata came off as a disappointment. Once again Gibbs’ style is nothing exciting; his Southern monotone voice becomes a sort of drone towards the album’s end. His voice may integrate well with Madlib’s style but it is not particularly gripping.
Lyrically though, Gibbs portrays gangster life as one he accepts but also not a life that is perfect. He’s “still living like [he’s] sixteen”, and his “dirty deeds was desperate”. But a pride and resilience can be found in his words: his talent has rewarded him with fame even in his bleak surroundings. The album’s features are also on top form. Earl Sweatshirt brings his usual flair, Domo Genesis shows signs of his ever-improving technique and even Ab-Soul fits into the atmosphere of the album. The only feature detrimental to their respective track is Danny Brown’s. He may be a great artist in his own right with an un-rivalled flow, but it doesn’t really lend itself to the laidback mood of ‘High’, and had he only gone for his more straightforward and chilled out style a better song could have been created.
Conclusively, while it is definitely a good thing to hear more of Madlib’s work (although a whole hour of it is a little too much) this is not exactly the second coming of Madvillainy. Skit-like moments such as songs like ‘Watts’ come off as un-entertaining and Freddie Gibbs’ voice is nothing new or extraordinary. And though this is a solid release from two ever developing artists, part of me thinks that it is Gibbs’ Southern, g-funk influenced style that holds this album back from being the perfect release it could be. Yet, this particular problem only causes me to be excited for Madlib’s future collaborations, wherein artists won’t restrict Madlib, perhaps one day we may even see Madvillainy 2.