Saturday, March 29, 2014

album review: 'piñata' by madlib & freddie gibbs

So here's a complaint that only a music critic will ever make: if you want to come across as remotely knowledgeable as a critic, you'll need to have listened to a lot of music.

Now that's not a bad thing by any stretch, especially considering listening to the greats of any genre is often very rewarding. But at the same time, if you want to come across as any sort of expert - and let's face it, most music critics do - you accumulate a pretty impressive backlog very quickly, especially if you talk about more than one genre. And listening to greatest hits albums doesn't cut it - assuming you've already listened to the essential discographies, your next criterion is to tackle all of the music that might be critically acclaimed within the genre, and not just what got popular. In other words, there's a reason why my backlog is now longer than my entire music collection - and that's just the stuff I know about, and it's not including all the new material I need to listen through this year.

Fortunately, it's always something of a relief whenever a new record comes out by an artist who falls into the critically acclaimed category, because now I can tackle two birds with one stone: review a brand new album and take the excuse to visit the works of artists in my backlog under the pretense of 'research' and 'appropriate context'. And since this album is a collaboration, I get to tackle two artists in question, which is even better! The first you should all know: DJ and hit producer Madlib, responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed collaborations in the underground, most notably with MF Doom for the classic album Madvillainy, which showcased his love for great beats, offkilter 70s blaxploitation samples, and a decidedly unique sound rooted in the fusion between over-the-top kitsch and gangsta grime. The second is Freddie Gibbs, who signed to Interscope in 2006 before leaving the label and becoming an underground star in the mixtape scene, where he developed a reputation as a great technical gangsta rapper with an unfortunate habit of retreading similar ground over and over again. And having relistened to his debut album ESGN, it wasn't exactly an unfair assessment: Gibbs' standard methodology for his rapping was as a thug with a conscience, and that's always a tough balancing act to maintain. And thus, I was intrigued to check out their collaboration, for at least at first, it seemed like an odd fit - how did it go?

1 comment:

  1. Hey, when you get a chance you should review "Working Man's Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard." Haggard's music is excellent but it's being covered by artists like Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch and Parmalee, so the album might not be very good. I found it strange they didn't do a tribute for George Jones since he died recently. But at least it's better than the country tribute album for Motley Crue coming out later this year.