Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – ‘Pinata’

Rap thug and jazz-loving producer combine for unpolished thrills

The combination of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – knuckleheaded rap thug and sophisticated, jazz-loving producer – may sound unlikely on paper. On record, though, Gibbs’ coarsely inventive flow works perfectly with Madlib’s imperfectly human beats. Nothing here is polished or computer perfect: instead the beats stink and stumble, full of unnerving soul strings and off-centre drums. Gibbs, meanwhile, sounds rough, relating stories of street thuggery and drugs in a voice that is both world weary and ominous, the lethargy in his voice reflecting the blunted bombast of the music. At its best – as on the heart-rending ‘Deeper’ – ‘Piñata’ sounds like a close cousin to Raekwon’s classic ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ (indeed Raekwon guests on ‘Piñata’ track ‘Bomb’). And that is a compliment indeed. The only complaint, surely, is that the duo dropped the original title: ‘Cocaine Piñata’.

Ben Cardew