The first couple of listens of ‘Piñata‘ were difficult.The production is heavily samples, which I have no problem with, but in regards to mastering and mixes, it was very Lo-Fi and reminiscent of the still underrated and under-appreciated Three 6 Mafia debut ‘Mystic Stylez‘. However, the real struggle was trying to listen to the incredibly vocal Freddie Gibbs over production which didn’t (at that point in time) make sense to me. His vocals didn’t sound mixed well over the beats and at times, figuring out what he was saying was a nightmare.
However, after two years and intensely listening to the album multiple times back-to-back, I was finally able to see the pixelated but vivid story that the Indiana gangster-rapper was producing.
The first thing Freddie did right in the come-up to the release of ‘Piñata’ was enlist legendary producer and part time rapper, Madlib. A name in Hip-Hop production that should always be praised for his unique production style and the alter-ego that has also allowed him to be recognised without even seeing him.
Anyway, features on this album are nearly as important as Freddie’s partner in crime; Madlib, for this instance. Detroit native, Danny Brown, shows up on the wavy looped instrumental of Freda Payne’s ‘I Get High (On Your Memory)‘. Odd Future members Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis provide incredible smoked-out verses to the chilled out ‘Robes’ and FLATBUSH ZOMBiE, Meechy Darko appears on the posse-cut and final track of the album for a verse that is not to be missed.
From the start with the grizzly ‘Scarface‘, which quote, Gangsta Gibbs “was the most difficult track [to rap on].” It sets the atmosphere of the album. An album that will testify as an ode to Gangsta-Rap still being a credible sub-genre of Hip-Hop.
The second track, ‘Deeper‘, which has a looped sample of strings or a high-pitched synth and ‘screwed up’ vocals on the hook show a story that only Freddie could tell of a destructive environment he is a product of while still attempting to be an honourable role model and be a man.
Another track that also stands out amongst the rest is ‘Real‘, a subliminal but blatantly obvious dig at the ATLien, Young Jeezy. The first minute of the beat is filled with intense drums, xylophon-like keys quietly in the background and quick guitar strums and a quick-2Pac-like-flow from Freddie, that sounds inspired from ‘Me Against The World‘. However, when the beat switches up to a laid-back instrumental and Freddie provides vigorous bars towards his ex-label mate without sounding remorseful or sorry to air out one of the most successful rappers from the south.
“Don’t make me expose you to those that don’t know ya
Man you said you the realest nigga in this motherfucker, check it
But Ross had you scared to drop a diss record” – Freddie Gibbs.
Although Ross and Jeezy squashed the beef, there’s no doubt that Freddie’s bars are ‘Real’.
Before we (w)rap this up, one of the finest tracks on the album that makes me just wanna kick back, roll a joint and just slow dance in front of a cabin fire is the smooth and sexy BJ The Chicago Kid collaboration on ‘Shame‘. The drum pattern sample is jazzy, the strings are luxurious and as always and consistently throughout the album, Madlib provides some of the best instrumentals to Hip-Hop.
As always, Madlib will provide extremely experimental instrumentals, crafted specifically for that particular rapper. In this case, Madlib’s test subject was Freddie Gibbs. He provided Freddie with a variety of instrumentals which Freddie tackles with raspy flows and vivid storytelling that makes you wonder where the visuals for this movies soundtrack?
P.S. SHOUTOUT MADLIB FOR RELEASING ‘Piñata‘ AS AN INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM AS WELL. ONLY BLESSINGS FROM THIS G.