It’s “Flat Tummy Tea,” the lead single off of seventh Freddie Gibbs album and second Madlib collabo Bandana. The Gary rapper is spitting the bars-packed chorus with the lines “Crackers came to Africa rappin’ to raffle rummage me / America was the name of their fu**in’ company”. Elsewhere, we get the off-the-cuff quip of “I remember when (some) ni**a came through with a C-230 or some sh**… C or E class… I’m like ni**a… get out that mothafu**a”, the spoken word sound bite giving way to gun shots.
This is that kind of album. It’s a throwback full of bars and undeniable technical skill, with production that though skillful is relatively minimalist to show off the ability of the emcee. But it’s not mainstream. It’s not club hits.
From Gary, Indiana, widely considered one of the worst towns in America, Freddie Gibbs doesn’t know a lavish life. The “C-230” is seen as luxury in his world, to say nothing of Bentleys or sipping beer comfortably in bars, the types of things that seem to dominate the radio and festival circuit these days. Producer Madlib is a time-worn veteran who’s put out a critically acclaimed album with MF Doom and his beats stay crisp and fresh, but also just a tad bit bland. Actually, this is a good thing, because they both have the idea that at heart this is Gibbs’ album and he’s got a lot of real-life stories to tell.
Still, with all his ghetto narratives, it’s his flow that steals the show here. One standout is “Half Manne Half Cocaine,” which in the musical backdrop is an ambient orgy of guitar, unconventional percussion and those spliced hats that typically come with trap. It’s almost like the ultimate track that Fetty Wap’s beat maker set the table for, waiting for a rapper with this dynamite mic authority to come along and do it justice. All over the track, Gibbs is spitting this vague, rugged rhetoric, and it’s the opacity of his lyricism, which ranges from quick threats references to random things in the ghetto, that defines the style of his and the album, early on. “Crime Pays” finds him taking his lyrical acrobatics to another level, with the chorus “Crime pays / Crime pays / Choppin’ up my change / Wit’ cocaine in my microwave”, to then explode into a wicked flow with an impeccable sense of rhythm and on-the-beat rhyming.
Are the guest appearances on this album a big deal? He**, the producer isn’t even a big deal, really. It’s Gibbs’ album and none of the tracks could have survived without his street smarts and his sense of humor. With the exception of referring to his hometown as “Scary Gary,” nothing on this LP sounds corny, and this stuff all sounds like unprecedented rhyme work of a master. “Giannis” finds him with the psychotic inclination that he has to overtake NBA stars in terms of prosperity, and immediately he throws sexual references into the lyrics, but “Cataracts” makes up for it with the disease-mentioning sense of humor with weed smoking, and “Get Da**,” possibly the album’s best track with a loungy, D’Angelo type beat courtesy of Mad and a flow on Gibbs’ part that finds him just so COMFORTABLE and hypnotic on the mic that it feels like a true coming into his own. Bandana is that rap album that will make young people more likely to want to slang crack and steal cars than to try to match this sh** musically. This is a testament to its incredible depth, energy and technique, the work of two veterans whose hunger only seems to grow as time moves on.