LIVE REVIEW: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib Debut “Bandana” in Los Angeles

Hip-hop’s reigning odd couple hot-boxed rabid fans at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip.

In the moment, Egon looked frazzled. The legendary LA music impresario had just taken over the turntables from fellow Jedi-DJ Cut Chemist in a packed and sweltering Roxy Theatre on the storied Sunset Strip. The occasion: the live debut of Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and LA producer Madlib’s wildly anticipated new album Bandana.

Last night’s at-capacity crowd had begun to grow restless as Egon continued dropping deep cuts and rare grooves on the original vinyl, but it was clear that the DJ was feeling the heat. Grabbing the mic, he explained to the crowd that he was going to drop one more record. After that, it was up to them to summon the star attraction to the stage.

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With chants of “Madlib” and “Freddie” resounding through the club, neither artist appeared, and a heavy velvet curtain dropped to conceal the stage to a smattering of boos. That frustration quickly turned to elation, though, when the curtain lifted again to reveal Madlib manipulating the decks.

The DJ went on to spin a mind-boggling set of brutal, neck-snapping beats, running through unreleased and rare productions, pausing occasionally to remind those in attendance that most of these tunes will never see the light of day. It was a powerful and impressive flex, a testament to the vast catalog and boundless talents of the man born Otis Jackson Jr. He also made a point to shout out Egon and Cut Chemist for their DJ sets, and spinning “the kind of records that I would sample.”

When Freddie Gibbs finally emerged to a hero’s welcome from the crowd, it was obvious the rapper was feeling no pain. Blazing through the opening song in a blur, Gibbs stopped the show, asking Madlib to start it over. On the second take, Gibbs’ skills on the mic snapped into strong focus. Once locked in, Gibbs is like the Eddie Van Halen of rapping. He attacks words and syllables with a hard-earned confidence and ability that only seems effortless in its stylish delivery.

With the crowd eagerly lapping up every advance exclusive from Bandana—set for release this Friday, or Thursday night, as Gibbs stressed—the pair reached back to their stellar 2014 debut, Piñata. That album’s instant-classic status was readily apparent, resulting in a massive club-wide rap-along.

Making the show even more impressive was Gibbs and Madlib seemingly vying to see which could rock the show the hardest while being supremely fucked up. The pair have a hilarious onstage rapport, bickering back and forth between tracks like brothers playing in the basement. At one point, Gibbs looked back at Madlib in wonder, as the DJ scratched out beat patterns on his gear. “Stop experimenting up here!” Gibbs joked. “See what I have to put up with? He’s making tracks during the damn show.”

Blending Piñata favorites like “High” and “Deeper” with new Bandana material, one especially bombastic track had Egon onstage staring at Gibbs in disbelief as the rapper spit rapid-fire rhymes across the steely, minimal beat. By all indications, Bandana will be every bit worth the five-year wait. A sweaty and satisfied crowd spilling onto the Sunset Strip after the show seemed to agree.

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have another sold-out show at the Roxy tomorrow, June 27. The dynamic duo will also appear in Los Angeles at this year’s super-sized edition of the Adult Swim Music Festival, slated for the weekend of November 15. FL

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