“Situations,” a track from Freddie Gibbs’ and Madlib’s second collaborative album Bandana, samples one Thaddeus Matthews, aka the “Cussing Pastor” who rose to fame in a 2018 Instagram video. “Fuck You Friday was such a great holiday that I thought I would extend the holiday season, and let’s call it ‘I Don’t Give A Shit Saturday,’” he says. “I don’t give a shit what you like, I’m doing what is best for me. I’m doing those things that makes me happy, those things that I think are positive with me, and that’s what you need to say to anyone today who comes into your life tryna bring negative shit into your life. Tell ‘em, ‘I don’t give a shit...’ In fact, go out on this holiday, get you some ribs, put it on the grill and let’s call it Fuck-A-Que.”
Gibbs, one of the preeminent contemporary gangsta rappers, and Madlib, an ultra-serious experimental beatmaker, may not seem like the two best messengers for a “we all need to lighten up and have fun” sort of decree, but Bandana proves otherwise. Smoother and more relaxed than ever, the duo, while still exploring favorite topics like drug deals gone wrong and police brutality, dare us to loosen up and enjoy ourselves on our own “I Don’t Give a Shit Saturdays.” Though the Matthews sample may sound out of place at first on “Situations,” a song about gang life and murders, it actually makes complete sense that the duo would use it here, pushing us all to live our lives to the fullest despite the hands we’ve been dealt. We all need our own “Fuck-A-Ques,” after all.
The partnership between the two seemingly completely different artists works even better this go around on Bandana, chock full of silky smooth flows and surprising beat changes. Piñata saw the duo swapping beats and demos without ever being in the same room (“I don’t have time to sit there and coach somebody that just already knows what to do, and that’s the kind of people I usually work with… I don’t want to sit there like a babysitter,” Madlib explained to Rolling Stone), But they actually met up in the studio for Bandana, and defined their relationship more as co-collaborators than rapper and producer. There’s a reason why both of their names and avatars (Madlib’s Quasimoto and Gibbs’ zebra) are on the album art and not just the picture of Gibbs from Piñata.
An engaging listen throughout, Bandana’s features are where the record really shines. “Palmolive” sees a dream team-up of Killer Mike and Pusha T rapping over a soulful beat that could have totally been on the latter’s DAYTONA sandwiched between “Come Back Baby” and “Santeria.” Later, Anderson .Paak lends his suave vocals to “Giannis” to counteract Gibbs’ hard, sputtering tone, which interpolates Lil Wayne’s infamous line, “Real G’s move in silence like lasagna” to cleverly reference Giannis Antetokounmpo, the recently anointed NBA MVP: “Real G’s move in silence like Giannis / My Greak Freak, we did a ménage with a friend in St. Thomas.” With the help of Yasiin Bey and The Roots’ Black Thought, “Education” slows things down to teach a lesson about the breadth of black suffering, from imperialism and the slave trade to the Trump administration.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib are two of the best at their individual crafts, both involved in some of the best hip-hop records and singles of the past decade plus. Their styles couldn’t be more different, but if Bandana and Piñata are any proof, they’re truly best when working together, especially in the same room. They compliment each other extremely well, Gibbs proving he really can rap over whatever weird left turns Madlib gives him. Bandana may deal with some weighty topics throughout its 46-minute run time, but its impressive flow—both in Gibbs’ rapping and their well-thought-out tracklisting—leads to a compelling but relaxed listen, the perfect soundtrack to your next “Fuck-A-Que.”