When you think of unusual duos that collaborate in hip-hop, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib are one of the first to come to mind. Yes, Madlib has worked and flourished with some of the most bizarre and unorthodox characters in hip-hop, from Doom to MED to Blu. His versatility is unquestioned. But it’s the fact that Freddie Gibbs isn’t so bizarre and unorthodox that makes their collaborative union’s congruous relationship so intriguing.
While Freddie Gibbs is a straight shooter with a blue-collar attitude and a hard working flow, Madlib can be characterized as a dreamer who looks to produce beats that push the boundaries of hip-hop’s limitations. He’s done everything to elevate and repackage the traditional genres of the west coast, especially funk, for a new audience, incorporating elements from all over the hip-hop spectrum.
At the end of the day, while these two different personalities would seem to be at odds with each other on paper, in reality, they balance each other out. Madlib has been able to create rigid, tough, and hardened beats for Gibbs before. Their first release, Thuggin’, is a perfect example of how Madlib can create a beat that suits Gibbs. Gibbs can ride a nice loop from start to finish. He’s relentlessly hitting you with street rhetoric, painting a harsh picture with broad-brush strokes and dark tones.
The title track, ‘Deeper’, takes its cues from this approach, letting Gibbs go to work on the microphone. His incredible consistency and pace, accented by the strings loop by Madlib, push his narrative abilities into the forefront. His bars’ timing is so accurate that you can almost see the picture develop in your head frame by frame like a slideshow.
What makes their musical relationship real special, though, is how Madlib is able to reframe Gibbs’ flow within the framework of soul and funk samples. In ‘Harold’s’, Madlib accents the consistency and timing of his flow with an audio cue and claps that highlight how Gibbs’ flow can translate to the bounce of a funk sample. In their previous release to this one, titled ‘Shame’, Madlib was able to soften Gibbs’s deep voice with a soul sample surrounded by lush instrumentation heavy on vocal melodies.
It’s work like this that has built the hype around their next drop, Piñata. Each release leading up to the album has shown a different aspect of their working relationship and how they complement each other. Expecting a classic from them at one point, before their first release, was doubtful. Three EPs later and it’s expected.