“I’ve seen a lot of violent incidents.”

Freddie Gibbs is reflecting on the imagery in his song “Bandana,” which doubles as the title of his new album with Madlib: a filthy, blood-stained bandana.

My brand new hammer
Once I used it, it was dirty like the blood stains on my bandana

“You don’t never get away from that,” Gibbs adds. The 36-year-old rapper, whose catalog of songs about his eventful California-via-Indiana life has brought him critical love and a cult fanbase, is seated in a cavernous New York City studio on an early spring afternoon. “You don’t ever forget that. You don’t ever lay that down. You think about a lot of that when you sleep, when you wake up. It’s damn near like having PTSD. A lot of those images are ingrained and burned in my mind forever. So getting it out on raps is therapeutic.”

The latest batch of those raps make up Bandana, Gibbs’ second full-length collaboration with Madlib. Their last project, 2014’s Piñata, was critically beloved for its mix of Madlib’s ominous and detail-laden beats with Gibbs’ artfully delivered tales of street life. When the pairing was first announced in 2011, it struck some as strange. The Cali-born producer, best known for his arty music with the likes of MF DOOM and Dilla, wasn’t the most obvious match for a rapper who was “wearing a Bo Jackson jersey and a durag, two pistols in his pocket” when he met his manager Ben “Lambo” Lambert. But Gibbs now sees the producer as an older brother figure, and he says rapping on Madlib’s beats is a puzzle he’s eager to solve.

“I was up for the challenge,” Gibbs explains. “I want him to take me to different levels of making music that I never knew I could unlock. It’s a certain way you gotta attack these beats. If anybody could rap ’em, then everybody would be doing it.”

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