An eccentric like Madlib and a straightforward guy like Freddie Gibbs—how could it possibly work? If 2014’s Piñata proved that the pairing—offbeat producer, no-frills street rapper—sounded better and more natural than it looked on paper, Bandana proves Piñata wasn’t a fluke. The common ground is approachability: Even at their most cinematic (the noisy soul of “Flat Tummy Tea,” the horror-movie trap of “Half Manne Half Cocaine”), Madlib’s beats remain funny, strange, decidedly at human scale, while Gibbs prefers to keep things so real he barely uses metaphor. In other words, it’s remarkable music made by artists who never pretend to be anything other than ordinary. And even when the guest spots are good (Yasiin Bey and Black Thought on “Education” especially), the core of the album is the chemistry between Gibbs and Madlib: vivid, dreamy, serious, and just a little supernatural.

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