It’s been five years since we last heard from MadGibbs, one of hip-hop’s most revered emcee-producer duos. Their triumphant return comes in the form of Bandana, a sophomore record that averts the slump with unbridled excellence. There’s a lot going on in there – let’s take a look at the samples underpinning Madlib and Gibbs’ newest opus!
(Above Photo Credit: Nick Walker)
Much has been written about the rapport between psychedelic producer Madlib and Indiana emcee Freddie Gibbs. More often than not, some comment is made about the novelty of the pairing: Madlib, who turns musical eccentricity into subversive masterstrokes, and Gibbs, whose no-nonsense, straight-up prowess is steeped in cocaine and chrome, did once seem a strange partnership. It’s been five years since the pair released Piñata, a proof of concept so virtuosic it remains one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade.
Now it’s 2019, and MadGibbs are more an alt-rap staple than a curious fusion. Bandana, first announced in 2016, has been held aloft as one of the most anticipated albums of the era. Even before a release date, the record endured as an intangible idea; a promise destined to one day be fulfilled. It’s never that cut and dry in music, especially hip-hop, which is notoriously fickle when it comes to collaborations: need I remind you that the Madvillainy sequel is still alive, albeit in the hands of the unpredictable villain. The future of MadGibbs, then, was anything but assured. In a field where hopes are regularly dashed, it seemed unwise to double down on anticipation.
Nonetheless, we did, subsisting for years on whispers and asides. Madlib claimed the record was comprised of rejected Life of Pablo beats, stoking anticipation further. Gibbs released You Only Live 2wice, a post-prison treatise on trust and trauma, Freddie, a hook-heavy gangsta rap record, and Fetti, another legendary collaboration between Kane and an era-defining producer, The Alchemist, albeit alongside New Orleans titan, Curren$y.
Last year, whilst waiting on their rumoured return, I decided to dive into the samples underpinning Piñata. It was, along with Madvillainy, the blueprint of this very structure, one I’ve since applied to No I.D., Kanye, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane and many, many more. Though all legendary in their own right, only Madlib could inspire this particular approach to sample breakdowns.
You need to know your history so you know the future. There are a lot of people who were better than the mainstream artists. If you like my music, then you’re gonna have to go study my samples. Even I study [the artists I sample], ’cause that’s where it comes from.” – Madlib, Noisey: Madlib’s Medicine Show (2018)
More than any other producer, Madlib lends himself to this very format: his sampling is cerebral, fuelled by a deep and undying love of all things music. Here is a man who owns four ton of vinyl, sleeps two or three hours a night and spends his long days in a smokey haze, spinning wax in his den. He pulls from the annals of history as much as the confines of crates, though there’s something unadulterated about Madlib’s indiscriminate love of music. “If I can’t get the record it doesn’t matter to me, I’ll bump the YouTube rip,” he told Dazed Digital in 2014.
The very same man who produced Bandana once created an all-time great hip-hop record on a month-long mushroom binge in Peanut Butter Wolf’s basement. He helmed a score of jazz outfits comprised entirely of alter-egos, fielding distinct bands fuelled by his multi-disciplinary talents alone. He’s the only hip-hop producer with an official Blue Note remix album. In the two decades since “Return of the Loop Digga,” in which Madlib comes up against an ignorant record store owner, his knowledge has become both deeper and wider, traversing genres whilst probing further still.
None of this is to discount the formidable command of Gangsta Gibbs, of course, but sample breakdowns of Madlib records tend to skew towards digital samples instead of emcee interpolations. In celebration of Bandana’s long awaited arrival, we’re breaking down the samples – at least, the ones we know about – on the duo’s acclaimed sophomore effort. That’s just the beginning: scroll to the bottom for our look at how the musical palettes of Piñata and Bandana compare to one another!
Bandana: Madlib’s Every Sample, Track-by-Track
Bandana opens with a sample that exemplifies the close collaborative relationship between Gibbs and Madlib. The dialogue that kickstarts “Obrigado” is lifted from a video of Big Time Watts, Gibbs’ uncle and a longtime staple of his projects, lamenting his lack of beer.
Watts came to prominence through his skits on projects such as ESGN and Piñata. “Watts,” the penultimate track on MadGibbs’ first record, found the alcoholic character imparting wisdom and talking his characteristic shit. Opening the long-awaited album with this soundbite is a nod to Freddie’s friend and uncle, who passed away in March 2017. Big Time Watts lives on in the work of Freddie, whether through direct invocation or Freddie’s greater character – he credits his confidence to the formative family figure.
2) “Freestyle S**t”
The spoken-word announcement that opens “Freestyle S**t” is courtesy of a curiously contemporary collaboration between Tony Touch, D-Stroy and DJ Premier. The aptly titled “Touch and D-Stroy” represents the only Preemo contribution to the 25-track veterans LP, largely helmed by The Beatnuts and featuring a roster of legends such as KRS-One, AG, Rah Digga, Masta Ace, Black Thought, Busta, Eminem, Bun B, Kool G Rap and a handful of the Wu.
This intro is itself an interpolation of Ronnie Gee’s “Raptivity,” a 1980 hip-hop single that’s long been a staple of Madlib’s palette. It first appeared on the outro to Quasimoto’s “Boom Music,” later cropping up on the Jaylib remix of Quas’ “Hydrant Game.” In 2010, the same elements of “Raptivity” appeared on 10 of the 32 cuts from Madlib Medicine Show #5: History of the Loop Digga, 1990-2000, which showcased pre-fame instrumentals. That same year, it also turned up on both “Prelude” and “Something Good (Intermission Two)” from the Madlib-produced 2010 Guilty Simpson LP, OJ Simpson.
Revelation Funk was a short lived outfit from Akron, Ohio, best known for their contribution to the 1975 Dolemite soundtrack. The James Ingram-featuring group recorded just two 7” singles of their own, “Running / Anybody Have Faith” and “Bear Funk / Elastic Lover.” Madlib takes elements from “Elastic Lover” to create the horn-heavy “Freestyle S**t” instrumental.
There’s two distinct passages at play here: the first, which enters at 0:20 on Madlib’s composition, is lifted from 2:23 on Revelation Funk’s original track. That phrase gives way to the smooth, looping instrumental, taken from 1:15, earlier than the sample against which it’s juxtaposed. It’s a novel approach to completely uncharted territory: Madlib is the first to make use of this obscure 1972 funk tune.
One of the most surprising moments on Bandana comes in the form of a Madlib-helmed trap beat, an unlikely-yet-impressive foray into the mainstream hip-hop zeitgeist. In a truly typical twist, the fleeting trap instrumental is built atop an inspired sample, courtesy of Frank Dukes and his Kingsway Music Library.
“Gregorian” was released in 2014 as a part of a sample pack. “Never have another record shelved due to sample clearance issues,” boasts the accompanying blurb. Given the legal difficulties presented by sampling, it’s a pretty compelling selling point.
You probably suspected it, and you were right: the vocal sample that plays about in the background post-beat change is the very same sample that famously opens Kanye’s “Mercy.” Super Beagle made his mark in hip-hop with “Dust A Sound Boy,” his 1988 sophomore single that’s since been sampled on cuts from Ye, MadGibbs, JID, Brother Ali and IDK.
“Dust A Sound Boy” was produced by reggae legend Winston Riley, who’d also produced Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” just six years earlier. Though a respected figure in the music industry and an indelible part of reggae culture, Riley was murdered in 2012, aged 68.
The beat switch brings forth another element sourced from a contemporary sample pack. The mellow and somewhat obscured piano hits that punctuate the second-half of the track are courtesy of Caponelli, an in-house producer for Boom Bap Labs. The description of Polaris One – the pack on which “2 Bars, Piano and Bass” is included – boasts original work with a distinct ‘50s feel:
Alpha Centori and Amen are proud to present their first full library LP of only original compositions. No samples. All played by them using their secret tools. The goal was to create melodies that sound just like they were sampled from old vinyl from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Incorporating elements from sample packs is, as far as I’m aware, a new approach for Madlib, who’s long preferred to dig into crates to find the elements he’s after. There’s a great track on The Unseen that’s about just that!
4) “Crime Pays”
This first sample only appears in the music video, but to gloss over it would be to ignore the finer points of Madlib’s game. His use of Wee’s “Teach Me How,” a track from the Ohio soul group’s only record, is both cursory and undeniably deliberate – that’s because, whilst it doesn’t add to the track, it hints at the same sample’s appearance on album track “Cataracts.” We’ll talk more about that later.
Wee’s You Can Fly On My Aeroplane is a great soul record. Released in 1977, it’s perhaps most famous for being sampled by Kanye on “Bound 2,” though selections from the record have also appeared in work by Frank Ocean, Logic and Knxwledge.
The most notable sample on the track – the clean synth that dominates the instrumental – is taken from another late-’70s cut. Madlib takes two distinct elements of Walt Barr’s “Free Spirit,” a 1979 jazz fusion track included on East Winds, and juxtaposes them to create an ode to the art of criminal entrepreneurship.
The first element is the most recognisable, entering at the opening of the “Crime Pays” and continuing throughout. You can find that passage at 0:34 in Barr’s original. It’s only at 0:38 that the instrumental changes up, sampling the hook from 1:01 in Barr’s original. The vocalist here is one Julie Long who, though credited on Discogs, remains a mystery.
5) “Massage Seats”
The sampled refrain on “Massage Seats” is one of the most outright reggae moments on the record. Madlib samples “Radio, Dance Hall Live” by Tenor Saw, Yami Bolo and Joe Lickshot, a performance that was included on 1991’s Tenor Saw Lives On: A Tribute To Tenor Saw.
Saw, a prodigious teenaged singjay, released his biggest hit, “Ring the Alarm,” in 1985. The rising star was tragically killed in a hit and run in Houston, Texas, just three years later. He was twenty-one years old. The two artists performing alongside him – Yami Bolo and Joe Lickshot – are accomplished in their own right, with both acts enjoying long careers that continue today. A brief appearance on a Madlib joint doesn’t go astray, either!
The beautiful vocal loop over which Gibbs, Mike and Push regale us is courtesy of prominent ‘70s soul act The Sylvers. “Cry of a Dreamer” was included on 1973’s The Sylvers II, their final record on Pride. Hailing from Watts, Los Angeles, the malleable family outfit usually featured six of the Sylver siblings, but nine of the family’s ten children were involved in the group at some point. They released ten studio records over their twelve-year career, disbanding in 1984 with some members going on to work in the industry.
The late Dap Sugar Willie plays out “Palmolive” with a routine released on wax in 1973. “Coulda Been Worse,” as it’s aptly called, was included on The Ghost of Davy Crockett, the first of the two standup albums ever released by the notable bit actor.
He’s otherwise best known for his role on Good Times, in which he played Lenny, who appeared in seven episodes across the last two seasons. Dap Sugar Willie died in 1994, though his final film appearance came a whole eight years prior.
7) “Fake Names”
Every producer has their own method, influenced by heroes, mentors and colleagues alike. Madlib is no exception: whilst his work is often defined by interjecting vocal samples and spoken word passages – see Madvillainy, The Unseen or Piñata – one of his most recognisable tenets lies in his composition. More often than not, Otis prizes complete instrumental passages over minute building blocks, preferring to loop an already-cogent phrase instead of assemble one from split-second fragments: that’s what makes him “the Loop Digga.”
“Fake Names,” then, is the exception that proves the rule. Madlib assembles the beat by juxtaposing four distinct elements of The Sylvers’ “Cry of a Dreamer,” the very same track underpinning “Palmolive.” The central sample enters at 1:35, and is taken from 0:35 in The Sylvers’ original. Other recognisable elements strewn throughout the second half of the song are lifted from 1:07, 2:53 and 3:30. Madlib took this same intricate approach on “Thuggin’,” which juxtaposed fleeting samples of Rubba’s “Way Star” to create a new progression from pre-existing elements
8) “Flat Tummy Tea”
First single “Flat Tummy Tea” is built atop a sample of Jesus Acosta and the Professionals’ cover of Nino Rota’s “Love Theme from The Godfather,” simply titled “Theme from The Godfather.” An obscure group active throughout the ‘70s, Acosta and the Professionals never experienced any mainstream successes, though their rendition of The Godfather theme has been sampled almost 15 times in the decades since their disbandment.
Madlib might have been behind one of those instances, as there’s a reasonable chance he was responsible for production on Yasiin Bey’s “The Tournament,” an Ecstatic-era cut that failed to make the album. Madlib produced four songs from that record, and “The Tournament” makes use of this very same sample.
At 2:03, there’s a bizarrely well-hidden sample of Starshine’s “All I Need Is You,” a 12” single released in 1983. Produced by M. Traxxx, the man behind Starshine, the song peaked at #63 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs Chart. It was Starshine’s one and only charting track.
“All I Need Is You” was first sampled in 2000, and though it’s appeared on a number of tracks since, it’s predominantly popular in electronic dance genres. Pete Rock flipped it in a 2005 release, and Madlib’s sample here – however veiled – marks just the second hip-hop invocation of the post-disco jam.
It’s very Gibbs to sample of an Instagram video as a way to taunt critics, but it’s Madlib who must have inserted this quietly viral comment into “Situations.” The originator of “Fuck You Friday” and “I Don’t Give A Shit Saturday” is Thaddeus Matthews, an unconventional pastor followed on Instagram by – you guessed it – Gibbs.
A Tennessee-based religious figure, Matthews seems to buck tradition with his straight-shooting takes and unfiltered affirmations. His speaking tour is called ‘The Bullshit from The Pulpit,’ so it’s unsurprising that he’s had to justify his use of language to other Christians. The language is just the beginning – in January of this year, he held a twerking contest at his church.
The central sample on “Giannis” is as exotic as it sounds, hailing from 1967 India. “Aasman Ke Niche” was originally included in Bollywood spy film Jewel Thief, a modest box office hit, and was later reissued with the instrumentation Madlib samples on “Giannis.” The track was composed by S.D. Burman, not to be confused with R.D. Burman, who’s later sampled on “Education.”
Madlib is no stranger to mid-century Indian music, specifically Bollywood scores, which he’s put to use on a wide variety of tracks. The Beat Konducta Vol. 3 & 4: In India, a two-part 2007 instrumental offering, focused exclusively on the rich musical heritage of the subcontinent, and album track “Movie Finale” later underpinned Mos Def’s lauded “Auditorium.” Bollywood crops up again on Bandana track “Education,” but we’ll get to that in good time.
Perhaps the most immediately recognisable vocal sample on all of Bandana, the fleeting soundbites from “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” could be none other than the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. Brown’s voice is perhaps the one thing more identifiable than his instrumentation, both of which have become indelible facets of hip-hop. Brown’s influence on hip-hop is such that it goes beyond just sound: his attitude, vigour, values and unrivalled ad-libs have all shaped the genre.
“Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” originally released in ‘68, has since become one of Brown’s most sampled tracks. You might recognise elements from tracks by Cypress Hill, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Slum Village, Run The Jewels, Big Daddy Kane and Brand Nubian, and the Madlib completionists amongst you may hear them on “J.B. & J.D. (Interlude)” and Jaylib’s “Raw Addict.”
“Practice” is built about a long-unreleased recording of legendary American soul singer Donny Hathaway. Originally recorded in 1975, “Make It on Your Own” was released as a part of the 2010 Someday We’ll All Be Free box set, a 4 CD, 61-track compilation named for the b-side that would come to define his legacy. Madlib makes use of vocals from the open, though the central refrain is lifted from 1:10 on Hathaway’s original.
As one of the foremost soul singers of his generation, Donny Hathaway was best known for his decisive renditions of standards and his work alongside Roberta Flack. A prodigious talent and honed voice, Hathaway nonetheless struggled with his mental health, committing suicide soon after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was just 33 years old.
“Teach Me How” by Wee, sampled earlier on the video version of “Crime Pays,” reappears with newfound purpose on “Cataracts.” Whereas the first invocation was largely inessential, this flip finds the mid-’70s soul act bearing the weight of Gibbs’ bars and Madlib’s ambition.
The Wee track was broken by producer Rashad, who sampled it on Maybach Music artist Stalley’s “Boomin’” in 2014. Though an infrequently sampled outfit, this was Stalley’s second run in with Wee: he appeared on an indebted 2010 Ski track alongside Freddie collaborators Curren$y and Mos Def.
13) “Gat Damn”
[No information available]
One of my favourite samples from Bandana comes courtesy of famed Bollywood composer R.D. Burman. Though the name might not ring any bells, Burman ranks amongst the most legendary Indian music directors of all time, pioneering the fusion of traditional and contemporary genres and scoring over 300 films.
You’ll likely recognise Burman’s “Dance Music” from Nas’ “Bonjour,” released last year. It’s entirely possible that it was Madlib that influenced Nasir producer Kanye West despite the release dates, as he sent West six beat CDs for consideration during The Life of Pablo sessions. West included a single Madlib beat – “No More Parties In L.A.” – on the finished album and the unused instrumentals, per Madlib, went to Gibbs. “Gibbs took all of them, rapped over everything,” said Madlib in 2018. “Kanye waited too long.” These beats formed the crux of Bandana, which means it’s entirely possible that West heard the “Education” beat as a part of those rejected offerings. You also might recognise the flip from Planet Asia’s 2017 joint, “Made It.”
15) “Soul Right”
[opening sample to be identified]
As Freddie’s laidback intro wraps up at 0:22, the central instrumental sample enters the fray, courtesy of Robert Bearns and Ron Dexter. A pioneering new age duo, Bearns and Dexter released six records between 1980 and 1987, all of which fell in the ‘Golden Voyage’ series. “The Heralding / Children of the World / Time to Fall in Love,” sampled on “Soul Right,” appeared on 1984’s The Golden Voyage Vol. 5 Special “The Heralding”.
Though Bearns and Dexter produced throughout the ‘80s, their work was steeped in the revelations of the late-’60s counterculture: one website claims that “as a flower child through the years 1967–68–69, Robert, an Aquarian, experienced a spiritual awakening that catapulted him into 21st Century New Age enlightenment, flowing forth THE GOLDEN VOYAGE Music Series with his writing and composing partner Ron Dexter.”
The elements that fade in at 2:50 are lifted from the opening of The Heliocentrics’ “Noises and Conversations,” a 2016 cut from the British jazz collective. Included on From the Deep, the track is the first sampled from the record, though work from the Gilles Peterson-awarded psych-jazz group has appeared on tracks from Nas, Billy Woods and The Gaslamp Killer.
Whilst Madlib generally samples from older sources, it’s unsurprising that he reaches into the world of contemporary jazz: London’s scene is amongst the most vibrant in the world, and Madlib himself has been a prolific practitioner of the genre. Coincidentally, The Heliocentrics recorded an album with Melvin Van Peebles in 2014, a collaboration that came nearly 15 years after Madlib’s own Van Peebles-heavy record, The Unseen.
Gershon Kingsley, still going strong at 96, closes out Bandana with a track that’s fifty years old on its own right. “Rebirth” was included on Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet, a 1970 LP that found the synth innovator continuing to pioneer the development of synth-pop. Though not on that album, the most indelible release of Kingsley’s early synth work is “Popcorn,” a now-standard included on Kingsley’s ‘69 solo debut, Music to Moog By.
Madlib has a particularly longstanding relationship with this sample: he first became acquainted in the early 2000s, as evidenced by an unofficially released Dilla x Yesterday’s New Quintet track, “Turn It Up.” It later appeared on Quasimoto compilation inclusion “Brothers Can’t See Me,” juxtaposed against vocals from Diamond D.
In fact, Kingsley – though far from famous in sampling circles – has proven popular amongst a specific school of producers, with other synth cuts appearing on M.E.D.’s Madlib-produced “Serious,” featuring Madlib’s brother Oh No, and J Dilla’s “Hambro,” released in 2003.
Bandana, Piñata and the MadGibbs Palette: Analysis
So, what does this all mean?
In some regards, a lot. In others, very little. Let’s start with the numbers on hand: Piñata incorporates an average of 2.8 samples per song, whereas Bandana currently manages a modest 1.5 s/ps. Even taking into account the unidentified samples, such as those that open “Soul Right” and underpin “Gat Damn,” Bandana still falls far behind Piñata in terms of distinct samples.
Madlib’s stylistic breadth only adds further context to his production: when you’re capable of anything, each and every choice feels deliberate. The six CDs of material sent to Kanye were just that – six CDs of unfiltered information, comprised of options and potential. Bandana, however, is an album through and through. The questions are many. How many beats were on the CDs? How many did Gibbs rap on? How many were considered for inclusion? How many will we ever get to hear? These are things we may never know, so let’s consider something a bit more rhetorical: when the producer behind it all spends hours every day playing wax and laying tracks, why should these 15 beats make the cut?
The Empire Strikes Back of the slated MadGibbs trilogy, Bandana has a lot in common with its predecessor, though it’s the ways in which it differs that are most interesting. If it feels less cinematic, it’s due to a lack of just that: dialogue from five different films and trailers dotted Piñata, making for loose narrative segues and retro interjections. Bandana doesn’t contain any similarly cinematic samples, though two multimedia samples – one of Big Time Watts, another of Instagram celebrity and preacher Thaddeus David – do help distill the duo’s ethos in much the same way. It’s easygoing, it’s arrogant, it’s self-motivated. As David says at the close of “Situations”:
“I don’t give a shit about what you think about me
I don’t give a shit about who you think I ought to be
I don’t give a shit about, you don’t like me cussin’?
I don’t give a shit what you like
I’m doing what is best for me!”
Classic Gibbs shit.
Madlib is often touted as a straightforward soul sampler, but the reality is a little more complex. Indeed, the majority of samples on both Piñata and Bandana are taken from the broad soul genre, a tally that only increases when contemporary R&B of the ‘90s and ‘00s are counted alongside the more antiquated flips. It’s the cavalcade of other genres that further colour the predominantly soul-based loops, punctuating phrases with exclamations and bridging tracks with narrative segues. Gibbs himself is a healthy source of interpolations, often recalling ‘90s and early ‘00s tracks, the very era that would have defined his adolescence and helped shape his love for the culture.
Piñata employs 48 samples: of these, thirteen are strictly soul. That’s 38% of the record, surely enough to warrant Madlib’s soulful reputation. Beyond these samples, many of which form instrumental loops, Madlib pulls an eclectic selection, incorporating the funk of James Brown’s revue, the prog rock of Goblin, the psych rock of Food, and the early electronica of Delia Derbyshire, to name a few.
Bandana, meanwhile, is far leaner. Whilst it would be irresponsible to claim we’d found all the samples – there’s a handful I know we’re missing, and perhaps a few beyond that – the tally it currently sits at a modest 23, just six of which are soul-sourced. The numbers might be less impressive, but that’s roughly 26% of those discussed in this piece.
Though it’s almost half as dense as Piñata, Bandana features more reggae. The sole reggae sample on their first effort appeared at the opening of “Lakers,” which lifts spoken word elements from Dillinger’s “Headquarters.” Bandana doubles down – literally – with two reggae flips. The first falls on “Half Manne Half Cocaine,” which samples the largely Kanye-associated “Dust A Sound Boy” by Super Beagle, and the second comes just two tracks later on “Massage Seats,” which is built atop a sample of the late Tenor Saw. That’s not even counting “Bandana,” the non-album single released between “Flat Tummy Tea” and “Crime Pays,” which featured dancehall deejay Agent Sasco.
Though still a seldom-invoked genre in the grand scheme, Madlib is more than just a little familiar with the Jamaican scene, having released an 80-minute mix of reggae, roots and dub in 2010. Granted, a mix is more a sequence of tracks than anything expressly sampling-related, but Madlib’s extensive musical knowledge feeds his production, each genre and movement a repository of potential.
I’m always doing music or listening to music. I’ll take two months off just to listen to records and not do any music so I can absorb all that and then when I go do my music it’s all in me. I’ll listen to a different genre every two days or something, study it, 24 hours straight.” – Madlib, Dazed Magazine, 2014
The new record also finds Madlib exploring sample packs, a new frontier for the otherwise traditionalist crate digger. If you didn’t pick them, that’s exactly the point: the short musical phrases are often mired in vintage sounds, allowing artists to emulate the old school without the hassle of sample clearances. The first on Bandana, which underscores the trap-heavy first half of “Half Manne Half Cocaine,” is a fine example of this practice.
That fleeting track, “Gregorian,” was purchased through the Kingsway Music Library. That site is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and cultural force Frank Dukes, one the most in-demand songwriters and producers of the last decade. Though he’s penned and produced cuts for Kanye, Push, Rihanna, Drake, The Weeknd and Danny Brown, Dukes still finds time to lay musical fragments and upload them as sample-fodder for contemporary crate diggers. It’s an inspired model that’s catching on: though companies such as De Wolfe Music have been curating music libraries for the better part of the last century, a specifically hip-hop-centric production library feels like an obvious-yet-unfulfilled need.
There’s a few reasons why Madlib might have lent on these tools: they’re stylistically varied, sonically malleable and legally simple. There’s also the chance that Madlib’s hand was forced by big label interference, as the label likely oversaw the clearance budget for the project. You’d imagine there’d be a lot of money on hand for a Madlib-helmed effort, but if anybody could find that ceiling, it’s the Loop Digga himself.
MadGibbs Will Return In… Montana!
Bandana is the next step in the MadGibbs story, one that’s slated to conclude with a third title, Montana. Now that they’re assuredly more than a one-off outfit, there’s little reason to doubt the eventual arrival of the record, though there’s no telling what that album will bring. Piñata and Bandana are distinct projects that build on the chemistry between the producer and emcee, something of a hip-hop anthology series that explores an evolving fusion of personality instead of a single rehashed aesthetic. You can even see it in the striking album art, a comment on the past and a mission statement for the future.
The image of Lord Quas astride a zebra, overlooking the fiery Hollywood horizon depicts this long-awaited arrival. Lord Quas’ pink car rests in the canyon, the titular Piñata lies in pieces on the floor, both icons of eras long since past. Bandana finds Gibbs and Madlib, now an accomplished duo as well as acclaimed solo acts, riding into the heart of the industry with little more than the fearsome command of their craft. Given this imagery, it’s no surprise that the record is Gibbs’ first to be released through a major label.
The record is just the second dropped through Keep Cool Records, a new subsidiary of RCA and Sony Music, though it’s also credited to ESGN, Gibbs’ label, and Madlib Invazion. Even though Gibbs already feels like a well-worn veteran of the 2010s, Bandana is a watershed moment in his yet-young career. After years of hustling, Gibbs is done toiling in acclaimed commercial obscurity: he’s arrived, ready to stake his claim to the throne.
It’s a compelling claim, thanks largely to the duo’s tight chemistry, Gibbs’ dextrous lyrical command, and Madlib’s ever-evolving abilities. The trap beat on “Half Manne Half Cocaine” is as much proof as we need: his knowledge is so deep and ability so prodigious that there doesn’t seem to be much he isn’t capable of.
If Frank Dukes is a producer’s producer, then Madlib is for the musically fanatic. He loves music as much as he loves making it, a fact evident in his sampling, each flip backed by hours of exploration and countless days of experimentation. The trail of samples in his wake traces back two decades, and were we to follow it, we’d arrive at Bandana with far-reaching knowledge of not only soul music, but the greater music of the African-American diaspora and popular culture as a whole.
That’s not to say that Bandana is a culmination of any sort. There’s no endgame for Madlib, and were there to be some kind of curtain call, it’s far too early for the ever-prolific artist. He’s already hard at work on the upcoming Black Star album, which was all-but-confirmed on Bandana’s release, as well as prospective projects with Guilty Simpson, M.E.D., Pusha T and eccentric Chicago emcee Chris Crack.
Then there’s Madvillainy 2, the return of Quasimoto, Maclib, and the other fabled projects that may never appear at all. It’s these records that command our attention – what we want that we just can’t have – but for each and every transient announcement, Madlib follows through with another rich tapestry of sound. It’s these, the ones we don’t anticipate, that so often stop us in our tracks. In teasing out the best from his collaborators, Madlib remains the Midas of the MPC: the very same fingers that rifle through records and balance blunts contain the power to turn a track to solid gold.