Warning: The surgeon general has determined...that the sounds you're about to hear...will always be devastating...to your ear! (sleep well)
Welp...no kidding, this was something else! The first time I heard the Palmolive sample and instrumental, I started to actually cry! Didn't sleep thanks to this fucking album, but it was worth it!
I don't think simple words can describe and explain the true significance and quality of Bandana. I've read through many of the user reviews and I think there's a lot more to say about this that unfortunately hasn't been said yet. So, to show my appreciation for Bandana, here's my two cents...
In the midst of many 2014 notable hip hop album releases, Piñata was a shining gem amongst a mix of disappointing mainstream releases and aoty frontrunners. Madlib's recruitment of Freddie Gibbs was quite odd for the time. The genius behind the production of Madvillainy and the Quasimoto persona was about to collaborate with the obscure, nobody that was Freddie Gibbs. What very few expected was an exceptional hip hop album with Freddie Gibbs gaining the recognition he needed and Madlib continuing to kick ass in a field he was very comfortable with. Given the success, acclaim and impact that Piñata has left in such a short amount of time, one can only imagine where the duo could go with their next album, Bandana.
For a producer most notably known for the MF DOOM collaboration project Madvillainy, Bandana seemed incredibly far-fetched and simply a hip-hop head's wet dream. However, the announcement that Gibbs and Madlib would return to collab not just once, but twice more under a trio of albums was incredibly shocking! Given how much I praised Piñata, the main question I had with me going into this project was, "can they pull it off? Can they make a worthwhile sequel to Piñata?"
However, going through Bandana once it released, I've realized that the main question isn't "is it better than Piñata?" No, what I've realized upon reading AOTY reviews and listening/dissecting Bandana is that this one-of-a-kind creative span of hip hop ideas simply cannot be compared to Piñata, and it's not because I think Bandana is simply all-round superior. That's not the point. The point is that comparing these two albums during the listening experience defeats the purpose of what makes Bandana its own distinct product.
From what I see, Bandana disguises itself as a laid-back, younger sister of Piñata. In reality, there's so much more than what is seen from the surface. Remember how in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was ordered to follow the yellow brick road to get to Emerald City and find the Wizard of Oz who can help her get back to Kansas? Let's say in this case, the yellow brick road was Piñata. Bandana represents Dorothy, who is ordered to follow the yellow path. Now let's say instead of following that same yellow brick road, Dorothy instead decides to take a more rough, slower, risky detour but she still ends up at Emerald City, the same destination that the yellow brick road leads to. This may sound very random to you, but this is how I picture Bandana as an album.
Piñata and Bandana both seem to aim for the same destination, but the routes they take to get to that destination are different, and Bandana's more inaccessible route pays off in the end. Bandana is an album that's both accessible and inaccessible. Now, what do I mean by that?
Well, it's time to take a look at what Bandana presents to the table. On the more accessible side, you have the very familiar Gibbs rap flow and the style of production presented by Madlib. On the more inaccessible side, you have the more aggressive, dangerously sharp and chilling Gibbs delivery that wasn't the case with Piñata. In addition, we have Madlib's incredibly laid-back, rough production with many strange samples inserted pretty much everywhere. Let's also not forget about the skits, the beat-switches and tracks cutting each other off abruptly.
Essentially, I can definitely see why Bandana may be underwhelming or not your cup of tea. Its somewhat rough aesthetic does make it seem unappealing and not as memorable as Piñata. However, these qualities are what I think truly excel this record on its own! I admire the strange, distinct use of samples on here. It really adds fascinating touches to Madlib's production. Time to time again, Madlib mixes in Gibbs, the samples and his beats together in a gratifying way! Massage Seats, Palmolive, and Giannis are a few tracks that really stand out in terms of sampling material! Madlib's production is otherworldly and stylistically gorgeous. He even does a great job at creating a trap beat on Half Manne Half Cocaine! The beat switchups are insane and unpredictable. There's always a captivating turn around every track!
Even with all the glimmering production, the one quality that simply cannot be ignored is Freddie Gibbs himself! In Piñata, although he proved himself very worthy as an MC with iconic and very promising performances, Bandana takes the extra edge and confidence of Gibbs that he has developed over the years! The result is a more chilling, lyrically potent, aesthetically pleasing and confident Gibbs that leaves a much greater impact! Gibbs went from just an ordinary rapper talking about fried chicken and bitches to an even more braggadocios and aggressive persona that other rappers don't dare to mess with (e.g. Jeezy)!
Basically, as someone who thought that Gibbs' performance wasn't as fulfilling as Madlib's production in Piñata since he was still trying to build himself up as a rapper, I feel that Bandana truly filled that empty-hole. The chemistry between the two had never been so strong! Gibbs has developed into one of the most interesting rappers of this new hip hop wave, and it's his artistic growth that leaves a much greater impact. Bandana is Gibbs' victory lap and he definitely earned his spot in the underground hip hop scene for his efforts!
Bandana is a monstrous powerhouse of a hip hop album that I would've never saw coming in 2019! As someone who wasn't completely aboard the hype train, I expected this to be a solid 8/10 release with Gibbs and Madlib doing pretty much the same ol' schtick. I'm pleased to say that I got way more than what I was expecting!
To sum it all up, I love the production. I love the lyricism. I love the storytelling aspect and how cinematic it feels. I love Freddie Gibbs and his insane rap flow. I love the creatively assembled set of Madlib beats and samples. I love the mix of the entire album. I adore the little skits. I admire the stranger elements of the record. I respect the fact that a lot of time, effort and careful planning was put into this to make it so exceptional! The fact that songs like Bandana (THE FREAKIN' TITLE TRACK) didn't even make the cut sorta proves this.
There hasn't been a single hip hop album since To Pimp A Butterfly that has resonated so much with me and really struck me as hard emotionally and mentally. The funny thing is Bandana isn't even trying to be very conceptual or conscious at all! However, I still truly believe Bandana is its own beautiful creation. The versatility, strength, consistency and creativity I get from Bandana is not something you see everyday. The fact that an album like this is coming out the same week as a 2-hour long Chris Brown album and a BTS game soundtrack is just....shocking!
Bandana is its own shining gem, and the elements of this album truly remind me of why I love Madvillainy (my fav hip hop album of all time) so much. Yes, I'm comparing Bandana to MADVILLAINY FOR GOD SAKES! I think you know where this is going...
I'm going to stop jerking off Bandana now and tell y'all that I'm giving this a 10/10. I don't give 10s often, but when I do, it's truly a moment I can appreciate!
(edit: I still have more to say, lol. The main point I'm trying to spearhead with this review is that an album like Bandana deserves way more than "oh i like the beats" or "it lived up to the hype" or "i don't get it". An album like Bandana deserves much more than what it's getting with the current reviews. I'm not saying that the reviews are bad, but there definitely can be more discussion and analysis, which is why I had this review in mind. I couldn't sleep just thinking about this album, cause from what I see, it's more than just a well-made rap banger. Bandana is a carefully, thought-out, intricately crafted piece of music that showcases the true firepower of Freddie Gibbs & Madlib. It's easy to just get lost in the hype or to dismiss this album for being over-hyped. I've analyzed this album since the moment it dropped and I think aesthetically, this record is just way more. You may think that my 100/100 rating was simply hype. However, I genuinely feel that Bandana is an experience that can hardly ever be replicated by anything else! This album's Madvillainy-like badassery and odd, but comforting nature is what sets it apart from any other album this decade.)
And so, Bandana is one of my all-time favorite albums and I doubt that's gonna change. Bandana is not a perfect album, nothing is. Bandana, however, is a perfect sequel in my eyes and ears. Don't even believe the hype, it's not going to tell you much. Just listen to the album for yourself and form your own opinion!
You're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy! It's BANDANA TIME!
FAV TRACKS: Freestyle Shit, Half Manne Half Cocaine, Crime Pays, Massage Seats, Palmolive, Fake Names, Flat Tummy Tea, Giannis, Practice, Cataracts, Education, Soul Right
LEAST FAV TRACK: None