Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2017 (Battle 12): JAY-Z vs. Joey Bada$$

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We have our opinions on the best albums of 2017, but rather than simply list them, we thought it would be more interesting to hear what you, the readers, believe is the Best Rap Album of 2017. With that in mind, we decided to make our Best Rap Albums Of 2017 list a living breathing conversation, that would ultimately lead to you, the readers, choosing which album is the best of the year. Over the course of the next several days, we will pit albums against one another, battle style, and the winners will be determined by your votes.

In the Sweet 16 round, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.,  JAY-Z’s 4:44Oddisee’s The IcebergBig K.R.I.T.’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Sean Price’s Imperius RexRapsody’s Laila’s WisdomJoey Bada$$’ All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ and Logic’s Everybody emerged victorious. Thus far in the the Elite Eight, Big K.R.I.T.’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. have continued their winning ways. Now, JAY-Z’s 4:44 faces Joey Bada$$’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ for the last slot in the Final Four.

JAY-Z – 4:44

The line between JAY-Z the rapper and JAY-Z the mogul has seemed blurry for some time now. Hova has evolved into a corporate visionary in front of his admirers’ eyes with one of the richest portfolios, both in business and music catalog. The natural progression from lyricist to capitalist, for one as ambitious as JAY-Z, was inevitable. As focus shifts, unavoidably so does the product. Facing mixed reviews in recent years, a majority of JAY-Z’s enthusiasts seemed willing to chalk it up to simply that: A busy Jay. Even so, his layups are grander than most MC’s slam dunks. Here’s the thing though: A G.O.A.T.’s burning desire is to remain a G.O.A.T., in all facets. To a man with the World at his fingertips, there is no price on pride. Hov apparently heard the criticism and knew his musical legacy wasn’t complete. The mastery of words for a sensei of his stature never diminishes. Enter 4:44. Honest, personal, anguished, vulnerable, forthright, and sincere. This is the only Shawn Carter that made musical sense at this point in his career. It had to be all or nothing with the Maybach curtains fully drawn back. And boy did Jay deliver, plus some. Hov commences the entirely No-I.D.-produced album by admitting infidelity (“Kill JAY Z”), presenting racism in a new way (“The Story of O.J.”), and eventually reminiscing on his younger days in the projects (“Marcy Me”), and finally, his hopes for the future (“Legacy”). The line between JAY-Z the Hall Of Fame songwriter, and JAY-Z the enterprise was entirely unblurred for this much-needed chapter, and music is infinitely better because of it. — Michael Blair

Released: June 30, 2017
Label: Roc Nation
Guests: Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Damian Marley, Gloria Carter
Producers: (self), No-I.D., James Blake, Dominic Maker


Released on “4/7” as a sign of respect to the late Capital STEEZ, Joey Bada$$’ ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ overflows with references to his late Pro Era partner. Joey’s second studio album marches towards the future, while acknowledging the past. Take for instance the Boot Camp vibe of “Ring The Alarm” with Pro Era’s Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight, as well as Flatbush Zombies’ Meechy Darko. The mixtape-era cypher traditions carry on, in bigger studios with polished production. Joey apparently upped his involvement in the musical direction of the record, providing input to song arrangements. This level of authorship shows, even with a changing cast of producers. The music on A.A.B. is orchestral and intricate, shifting as it does from the charged-up ScHoolboy Q-assist on “Rockabye Baby,” to Joey’s most mainstream touchstone, “Devastated.” The Brooklyn MC raises the stakes in sound and message on his second LP. “Land Of The Free” sees Joey Bada$$ turn up the intensity while evoking his experience as “a Black spade spawn out the nebula.” At the top of the decade, Joey and STEEZ were skateboarding teens out to be heard in their New York City. In 2017, this star MC is rapping right in the face of “AmeriKKKa.” – Madeleine Byrne

Released: April 7, 2017
Pro Era/Cinematic Music Group
Guests: J. Cole, ScHoolboy Q, Styles P, Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution and Meechy Darko, Chronixx,
Producers: DJ Khalil, Kirk Knight, Statik Selektah, Like, Powers Pleasant, Chuck Strangers, 1-900, Jake Bowman

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