Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and veteran producer Madlib seemed an unlikely pairing when they first announced their 'MadGibbs' collaboration. Their 2011 single, "Thuggin'," preceded their debut LP by a whole three years, stoking anticipation and fuelling doubts about the project's fate. Upon arrival, Piñata was showered in acclaim by critics and fans alike, with many calling it one of the best records of 2014.
A lot can be gleamed through exploring Gibbs' interpolations and Madlib's ever-esoteric samples. The wide array of sampled materials form an intriguing cultural roadmap, at the centre of which is the duo's 2014 debut. It can teach us about cultural assets both revered and long forgotten, an inadvertent exploration by way of artistic recontextualisation. With Madvillainy already explored and Bandana on the horizon, it's about time we dove into the dense, exploitation-tinged soundscape of MadGibbs' Piñata.
A foreboding skit loaded with street philosophy and violent inferences, "Supplier" briefly outlines Piñata's sobering contention: "only the strong survive." Whilst the sampled dialogue is yet-unidentified, we know the track upon which it rests.
"Supplier" incorporates a sample of The Gaturs' "Get Up," a track off their sole 1994 record, Wasted. Led by session musician Willie Tee, The Gaturs played a jazz-funk hybrid similar to that of The Meters.
The drumkit and bass that loop under Freddie's first verse are taken from Opa's 1975 track, "Brooklynville." A Uruguayan jazz fusion band, Opa released three records between 1969 and 1977. The sample can be found at 0:37.
The opening to The Inclinations' "I'm Gonna Make Love Last This Time" fades in at 1:45.
A Philadelphia-based R&B group signed to the NYC label Janus Records, The Inclinations seem to have little more than two singles to their name. They were previously sampled by Gibbs himself on 2012's "Breaking Bad," as well as by Pete Rock and Freeway. The same instrumental appears in the music video intro for MadGibbs' "Deeper."
The siren sound effect at 0:03 is taken from the opening of the "Gang Busters Theme." Gang Busters was an incredibly successful US radio program focused on purportedly true crime stories. It aired for 21 years between 1936 and 1957.
The program doubled as a PR offensive against gangsterism. A soundbite from the opening to an episode is also played at 1:37, though I couldn't source that fragment.
The track's intense opening - "blood gushing, I think I hear sirens" - is sampled from Killarmy's "The Shoot Out," the second single off their sophomore album, Dirty Weaponry.
Gibbs interpolates lyrics from Geto Boys' "Scarface," a track off their 1989 sophomore album, Grip It! On That Other Level. DJ Akshen of the Geto Boys adopted the stage name Scarface following the release of that record.
The lyric appears at 0:25 in The Geto Boys' track and at 0:54 in MadGibbs': "I started small time, dope gang, cocaine..."
The uneasy strings that punctuate Gibbs' bars add a sense of menace to this mournful track, in which Gangsta Gibbs recounts how his lover left him due to his drug dealing. Though Freddie's left hurt by his ex, he suspects that her child is actually his.
The instrumental is largely taken from The Ledgends' 1970 single, "A Fool For You." Information on the Chicago-based group is scant, and Discogs lists just three singles under their name. Madlib also sampled the track on 2011's "Love/Hate."
Elements of "Deeper" can be heard throughout the track, namely appearing at 0:01, 0:23 and 1:13.
Madlib samples a 2012 live show featuring Gibbs, using his crowd interaction to close out the track. At 3:05 on "Deeper," Gibbs can be heard saying "make some noise in this motherfucker, god damn it, what's up?" This sample appears at 7:08
The subsequent dialogue, in which Gibbs mentions Madlib by name, can be found at 7:36.
The horns that close out the track are originally from Miilkbone's 1995 track "Keep It Real." The debut single from the New Jersey emcee was a commercial success, and the instrumental was famously freestyled over by Big L and Jay Z on the Stretch and Bobbito show.
The sample appears at 0:06 on "Keep It Real," and at 3:13 on "Deeper."
One of the album's more upbeat cuts, "High" boasts a feature from Detroit native Danny Brown. Brown's animated delivery earned him the nickname 'The Hybrid,' a title which he also bestowed upon his debut album. Madlib's no stranger to celebrating marijuana, something he did most notably on Madvillainy cut "America's Most Blunted."
The titular refrain is borrowed from Freda Payne's "I Get High (On Your Memory)," a 1977 single off her seventh studio album, Stares and Whispers. Payne has released 15 albums over her five-decade career.
The wordless singing that opens the song is taken from Maxine Nightingale's "You Made My Life So Beautiful," an eight-minute cut off her 1978 album, Love Lines. The "High" sample can be found at 0:41.
Nightingale was a British R&B singer who had mainstream success with her debut single, 1976's "Right Back Where We Started From." She released her final album in 1986, and has faded into obscurity in the years since.
The voice that asks "how's everybody doing tonight?" at 0:01 belongs to none other than The Notorious B.I.G. It's taken from the opening to his 1997 track "Sky's The Limit," released as a part of his posthumous sophomore album, Life After Death.
Gibbs uses Harold's, his favourite fried chicken spot, to reminisce about his youth in Gary, Indiana. He builds the track around a refrain outlining around his favourite order.
"Harold's" is built atop a single sped-up sample of Rose Royce's "Let Me Be The First To Know."
It's an album track off the funk band's third LP, Rose Royce III: Strikes Again!. That record has been popular with renowned samplers, with various elements borrowed by artists such as Daft Punk, Mr. Oizo, Beanie Sigel and A.G.
"Bomb" borrows multiple elements from Goblin's 1976 track "Goblin." MadGibbs' opening appears at 7:06, whilst the verses are backed by a sample taken from 5:20. The progression at 0:57 in "Bomb" is taken from 5:34 in "Goblin."
Madlib's love of musically unrelated outros prompts him to borrow from "Interlude," a track off Lamont Dozier's 1981 album, Working On You. A sample of 0:42 can be heard at 3:18 on "Bomb."
Once a member of a successful Motown writing team, Dozier became an artist in his own right, releasing seven albums over 30 years.
Instrumentally dense and lyrically furious, "Shitsville" is one of Piñata's few hype tracks. Freddie channels an unlikely Shakespeare quote to berate his enemies, reminding them that, despite their pretenses, they're "just like [him]."
"Up Market," the opening track off Quin's Videotronics, is something of a sporting staple since featuring in Michael Jordan's Air Time in 1993. Madlib previously sampled De Wolfe's library music catalogue on Quasimoto's 2005 track, "Don't Blink."
The drums that run throughout "Shitsville" are lifted from Fred Wesley and The Horny Horns' 1977 track, "A Blow For Me, A Toot to You." The album of the same name was produced by George Clinton and featured Bootsy Collins on drums.
The sample at 2:51, which begins "hold on bitch, you travelling too fast," is taken from Bruce Jackson's 1976 album, Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me.
Madlib flips an art-rock classic at 2:51, incorporating the iconic backing vocals from 10cc's 1975 hit, "I'm Not In Love."
The vocals are lifted from 0:46.
The first of three singles released from Piñata, "Thuggin'" preceded the album by a whole three years. It finds Gibbs waxing poetic about street life over Madlib's smooth, cerebral beat, a proof-of-concept when first released.
The dialogue that opens "Thuggin'" - "somebody warn the West..." - is taken from the trailer to the 1972 blaxploitation film, The Legend Of Nigger Charley.
That film would go on to inspire Tarantino's Django Unchained. Coincidentally, lead actor Fred Williamson also appeared in the 1978 Italian film The Inglorious Bastards, itself an inspiration for Tarantino's 2009 film of the same name.
The instrumental crux of "Thuggin'" comes from Rubba's "Way Star." A track included on the group's 1980 LP, In Motion: Modern Progressive Sounds Played by Rubba, it has since become the group's most enduring release.
Little can be gleamed about the obscure UK group: they were active from '79 to '83, released five LPs and have little popular appeal beyond "Way Star," which has itself been sampled 19 times.
Madlib builds the outro from two samples, the first being Debbie Taylor's 1969 single, "Never Gonna Let Him Know." Though it reached #86 on the Billboard 100, commercial success eluded Taylor, who eventually moved to Connecticut and adopted the name Maydie Myles.
Though active in the local music scene, the whereabouts of Taylor remained unknown until Myles revealed that she was Taylor in 2011.
The sample of dialogue running through the outro is taken from the 1976 blaxploitation film, Black Sister's Revenge. It was directed by Jamaa Fanaka, a member of the L.A. Rebellion cinematic movement.
A straight-up diss track aimed squarely at Jeezy, "Real" finds Gibbs airing grievances about his former friend and label head. Comparing their contract to robbery and slamming Jeezy as a wannabe JAY-Z, Gibbs holds little back. "Real" stands for "remember everybody ain't loyal," Gibbs' first proclamation on the track.
The underlying sample that appears at 0:02 is 1968's "Pot Au Feu," the work of electronic pioneer Delia Derbyshire.
Told by Decca that they didn't hire women in their recording studios, she went on to produce one of the most memorable and innovative electronic compositions of all time: the Doctor Who theme.
The fleeting-yet-eerie electronic ambiance that fades in at 0:18 is taken from another Derbyshire piece: 1968's "Blue Veils and Golden Sands."
Derbyshire recorded the piece as incidental music for The World About Us, a documentary series that ran for two decades on BBC Two. Given her inventive approach to music and the hardships she worked to overcome, it's not surprise that Delia is the "unsung genius of early electronic music."
The psychedelic, easygoing guitar that loops from 1:06 is taken from Food's 1969 track, "Leaves."
The Chicago-based band recorded just one album, Forever Is A Dream. Heavily steeped in the psychedelia of the day, AllMusic retrospectively deemed the album a mediocre representation of then-contemporary trends.
The descending scale at the open is taken from Larry Fast's "Shibolet," a track off his 1981 album, Audion. Fast, a synth player, recorded a series of innovative synthesizer records as a part of his twelve-year Synergy project.
"Uno" also takes its ongoing instrumental from the same track: that sample can be heard at 2:54.
Gibbs interpolates lyrics from 2Pac's "Against All Odds," a track off his first posthumous album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. At 2:53, Pac says that he'll "probably be murdered for the shit that [he] said," referring to the incendiary content of the East Coast diss track.
Gibbs parrots this at 1:21, tapping into Pac's lyrical legacy and steeping his gangsta credentials in one of hip hop's most notable and violent feuds.
Madlib plunders ferociously from Lenny White's "Sweet Dreamer," incorporating four seperate elements into "Robes."
Here are the timestamps, "Sweet Dreamer" to "Robes": 4:20 to 0:00, 3:48 to 0:05, 0:41 to 0:21 and 3:27 to 0:53.
The instrumental that underpins the final minute-and-a-half closing skit is the work of Pookah, a German psychedelic prog-rock group. "Lady Ostrich" is a track off their sole album, released in 1969.
Despite their short-lived career, Pookah have also been sampled by onetime Madlib collaborator J Dilla and noted emcee Lil Ugly Mane.
When Gibbs tries to croon "I only think of you on two occasions," he's interpolating The Deele's 1987 single, "Two Occasions." An almost comically overblown R&B jam, "Two Occasions" is a great example of the fleeting "quiet storm" subgenre.
The Deele are most notable for member L.A. Reid, a three-time Grammy award winning songwriter and former CEO of Epic Records and The Island Def Jam Music Group.
"Broken" owes its super-smooth instrumental backing to the godfather of cool himself, Isaac Hayes. Though Hayes had a long and successful career, he's best known for his work on the score to the 1971 blaxploitation classic, Shaft.
Hayes also voiced Chef on South Park, quitting in 2006 after releasing a statement accusing the program of "bigotry." In 2016, it was confirmed that the statement was drafted by Hayes' entourage after he was rendered vulnerable by a stroke.
A silky-smooth dedication to Los Angeles, the place Gibbs now calls home, "Lakers" is an all-time great ode to an oft-serenaded city. Madlib is from Oxnard, California, and guest vocalists Ab-Soul and Polyester The Saint are L.A. natives. Despite the track's NBA-indebted title, Gibbs is not a fan of the Lakers.
The languid guitar-based instrumental comes from Deniece Williams' 1982 single, "Waiting." Her vocals also appear at 3:53 on "Lakers," lifted from 2:25 in "Waiting."
A prolific recording artist, Williams has released 16 albums and won four Grammy's. Niecy, her sixth studio album, peaked at #20 on the Billboard 200.
Williams, like Gibbs, is from Gary, Indiana.
The bombastic horns that open MadGibbs' ode to the City of Angels are sourced from Cannonball Adderley's 1966 version of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."
Included on his Grammy-winning 1966 live album, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club," the track was a surprise hit that has since been covered many times. Beyond popularising that track, Adderley is best known for his work with Miles Davis on albums such as 1959's Kind of Blue.
When Ab-Soul raps, "I live out there, so don't go there / You've heard it before," he's not kidding. It's an interpolation of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Going Back To Cali," a track off his posthumously released LP, Life After Death.
Named for the basketball team of the same name, "Knicks" details the ways in which Gibbs' life has changed by reflecting on his unfaltering love for basketball.
"Knicks" is built atop a sped up sample of Louis Williams' "I Care For You," a track which appeared on the 2004 compilation album One In A Million: The XL And Sounds Of Memphis Recordings.
The Ovations were a R&B group who toured alongside artists such as James Brown, Gladys Knight and Percy Sledge. Though they scored a hit with a Sam Cooke cover, their lack of sustained success led to their breakup in 1973.
The third super-smooth R&B-steeped track in a row, "Shame" explores the intersection of infidelity and one night stands. It's fitting that The Manhattans' "Wish You Were Mine," from which Madlib borrows, is also about infidelity.
Multiple elements of The Manhattans' "Wish That You Were Mine" form the crux of "Shame," the second single from Piñata. The opening used in "Shame" occurs at 2:25, whilst The Manhattans' instrumental break at 0:10 appears 0:24 on MadGibbs' track. Finally, the original's 0:26 appears at 1:09 in "Shame."
A two-minute skit revolving around a particularly abusive phone call from Gibbs' uncle, who goes by Big Time Watts. Madlib pairs this acidic takedown with obscure jazz and nigh-unheard of comedy samples. Watts himself has a Vine account, showcasing more of his humour.
The piano that scores Big Time Watts' belittling rant is lifted from Bobby Militello's 1982 track, "A Little Song For You." Though Militello only released three studio albums under his own name, his 1982 Motown-released LP was billed as Rick James Presents Bobby M.
A comment from the outro to "Heat" - "better that than a hole in the head, right nigga!?" - can be heard in the background of "Watts" at 0:50.
Both title track and album closer, "Piñata" is a relentless onslaught of a posse cut. Featuring six guest emcees - Domo Genesis, G Wiz, Casey Veggies, Sulaiman, Meechy Darko and Mac Miller - it's a five-and-a-half minute parade of bars capped with a percussive album outro and more of Gibbs' hilarious crooning.
"Piñata" takes its distinctive harpsichord-esque riff from New York City's 1973 album opener, "Hang Your Head In Shame."
I'm Doin' Fine Now was New York City's debut album. It produced three hit singles: the title track, "Make Me Twice The Man" and "Quick, In A Hurry." That live performance of the latter features Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, two years before they started Chic.
The melody that Freddie croons at 7:04 is taken from "Outstanding," a track off Gap Band IV, the sixth LP by The Gap Band. Their most successful project, it features hits such as "Early In The Morning" and "You Dropped A Bomb On Me."
The album's spoken outro takes dialogue from the thirtieth minute of Super Fly, a classic 1972 blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Parks Jr. Though the scene isn't available on YouTube, the transcription shows the sampled conversation.
MadGibbs will return in: Bandana!
Piñata incorporates more than 45 samples and interpolations across 17 tracks. It borrows from a wide variety of genres, leaning heavily on the classic R&B of the 1980s. Whilst the record is clearly steeped in a bygone era, it utilises the past in Madlib's distinctively modern way.
After producing Kanye West's 2016 Kendrick collaboration, "No More Parties In L.A.," Madlib let slip that some of the beats that went unused by Yeezy would appear on MadGibbs' Bandana. The admission only served to stoke anticipation for the duo's already long awaited sophomore effort, purportedly coming later in 2018. Whether or not Bandana releases this year, one thing's for sure: Madlib and Gibbs make a formidable pair.