In an interview with Radio.com, Freddie Gibbs was asked about his jab at Young Jeezy on the Piñata cut “Real”. “I ain’t worried about nobody coming at me lyrically. I make these sh*t diss records look like kumbaya…you come at Gibbs man that sword better be sharp.” Those are some fiery words and usually MCs would be running to send slicing tracks Gibbs’ way. But it’ll have to be one seriously ignorant rapper to challenge Gibbs after Piñata. Produced by the man, the myth, the legend, Madlib, Gibbs has made the finest record of his career and one of the best damn rap records in recent memory.
Anyone paying attention to the EPs that Madlib and Gibbs dropped before Piñata knew that something great was coming. Thuggin, Shame and Deeper all held fantastic tracks. The title track from Deeper was one of the finest hip-hop pieces from 2013, but it’s even better when placed among its brethren. “Deeper”, along with the rest of the tracks here, are fairly straightforward hip-hop, but each song is refined to pure excellence. This is probably Madlib’s best full album production work since Madvilliany and he thrills with his soulful and eclectic beats. There’s the breezy keyboard that pushes “High” along. “Uno” sounds like it sampled some of the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack, and “Knicks” is smooth New York jazz.
Madlib never stays in one place, but he makes it all sound so smooth. After the video gamey “Uno” is “Robes”, which is a smooth Mo-town throwback with a silky vocal sample. For nearly anyone else those two tracks couldn’t be placed next to each other, but in Madlib’s world it makes perfect sense. With these fantastic beats, the guests flourish. Danny Brown gives a high-octane performance on “High”. Raekwon brings extra menace to the already atmospheric “Bomb.” Ab-Soul’s laidback ode to his home town gives levity to “Lakers” and it’s sure to be a summer anthem for California residents. Even Odd Future shows up, with the ever hungry Domo Genius and the always dark Earl Sweatshirt on “Robes”. The only major complaint with the features is that Scarface doesn’t show up on the song titled “Scarface”; he instead drops a great verse on “Broken.”
The guests have a great chemistry with Madlib, but nothing comes close to the mad gansta genius of MadGibbs. Gibbs’ flow combined with the gorgeous soul background of “Deeper” is nearly as breathtaking as the story. Gibbs spins a tale of jail time and questioned paternity that will, to quote Gibbs, “cut a nigga deep.” Gibbs never sacrifices speed for lyrics and holds the best of both worlds. Madlib pushes Gibbs to top speeds on “Scarface”, “High” and “Real”. Even on wonky beats like “Real”, Gibbs owns it.
The truly impressive thing about Piñata is that when the album is at its top level, it’s nearly untouchable. “Shitsville” has an absolutely mad beat and is the gangsta anthem of the year. The aforementioned “Bomb” is equal parts swagger and threat. But even when MadGibbs are just having fun it’s amazing. “Harold’s” is Gibbs’ ode to his favorite Chicago restaurant. It’s fun, but Gibbs still sounds like a complete badass. “Scarface” has Madlib cooking up a beat in the same vein of Black Star’s “Definition”, but with Gibbs’ flow acting like a steamroller. “Thuggin’” is Gibbs in a nutshell: smooth, unapologetic and simply great. “Cause motherfucka I’m thuggin’ / Selling you the science of the street rap / …I’m tryin to feed my family, give a fuck about your feedback.” Gibbs might not care, but Jesus has he made a stunning album.