Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata
At first glance, the pairing of producer Madlib and rapper Freddie Gibbs seems unlikely. The former is the ultimate crate-digger, known as much for his reclusive tendencies as his endless collection of obscure soul, jazz, rock, and other musical ephemera; the latter is a street-hardened former dealer who rhymes about the perils of the dope game. But they say opposites attract, and in this case their two aesthetics complement one another. Gibbs is a nimble, gifted rapper, his syllables quick-stepping around Madlib's many twists and turns, from the grainy '70s soul-funk of "Scarface" to the half-time disco of "Harold's" to the hazy West Coast G-funk of "Thuggin." The duo's credentials are strong enough to pull some of hip-hop's finest into their orbit: oddball Danny Brown contributes a verse to the squirming "High," while the crews from The Wu-Tang Clan, Top Dog Entertainment, and Odd Future are all represented (via cameos from Raekwon, Ab Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt, respectively). As a final shot of gravitas, Scarface drops a verse on "Broken." It's a deserved blessing from one of hip-hop's finest MCs to one of its most unlikely but successful pairings.