Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2017 (Battle 8): Kendrick Lamar vs. Big Sean

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.

We’ve chosen 15 albums that we think represented the best Hip-Hop of 2017. Inevitably, we left off some LPs that you believe should be included, so, last week, we also a had a wildcard round (with a write-in option) where readers picked the album they believed most deserved a spot on the list. That distinction went to Big K.R.I.T., whose 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, rounds out the top 16. See below for the full list.

Now, the bracket-style competition among the final 16 albums in consideration has begun. Each day, albums are facing off against one another. In each case, voting closes after 24 hours. We are going from the Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight to the Final Four to the Championship Finals, with one album emerging as the victor. In the last battle, JAY-Z’s 4:44 joined Oddisee’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 in heading to the next round. Today’s battle pits Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. against Big Sean’s I Decided.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

To this point, Kendrick Lamar’s career has been a prototype for realizing one’s own magnitude and handling it with the utmost care. K-Dot knows he’s the certified Top Dawg in Rap, is fully cognizant of the weight of his words, and doesn’t take his reach lightly. He can single-handedly sway culture, and his mighty composure, paired with the self-applied pressure to manufacture a certain altitude of music that aligns with his vision of progress, is unparalleled. That’s what makes him King Kendrick. He sits alone on the throne, and DAMN. is our gratifying introduction to a disrobed and accessible royal. While DAMN. is brimming with spiritual layers, conflict, and imperfection, the social commentary is a bit mitigated in comparison to good kid, m.A.A.d city, and especially To Pimp A Butterfly, instead emphasizing a more sonically mellisonant experience. While boundaries are non-existent within Kendrick’s conceptions, and in this instance as an album that has relevance played both forwards and in reverse, DAMN. is his most classicist approach to Rap music. Authenticity is the foundation upon which DAMN. was built. Whether he’s elaborating on his insecurities (“PRIDE”), his heritage (“DNA”), feeling isolated (“FEEL”), the juxtaposition of libido and affection on adjacent tracks (“LUST” & “LOVE”), political and religious climates (“XXX”), or his his own accomplishments (“HUMBLE” & “GOD”), it’s his humanity that stays rooted throughout. DAMN. reveals Kendrick’s grand ambition in seeking out the parallels and contradictions of emotion and sorting through the sense of it all, a perpetual exploration that we all undergo. The album allures, evokes feeling, and reminds us that it’s not just Kendrick Lamar’s story, it’s all of ours. — Michael Blair

Released: April 14, 2017
Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records
Guests: Rihanna, Zacari, U2
Producers: Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, 9th Wonder, Alchemist, Tae Beast, Terrace Martin, Bekon, BadBadNotGood, Cardo, DJ Dahi, Mike Will Made It, Sounwave, Greg Kurstin, James Blake, Ricci Riera, Kuk Harrell, Steve Lacy, Pluss, Teddy Walton, Yung Exclusive

Big Sean – I Decided.

Since the top of the decade, Big Sean has proven himself to be a master at putting clever wordplay and lyricism in hit records. On 2015’s Dark Sky Paradise pivot, the Detroit MC embarked a new level of personal depth. For I Decided., Sean Don seamlessly blends both achievements. Monstrous anthems like “Bounce Back” and “Jump Out The Window” fit snugly into the bigger themes of new love, taking chances, and persevering. With some of the catchiest beats afforded to any 2017 album, the G.O.O.D. Music star adapted his lyricism to universal narratives. From the same late ’00s mixtape class as Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, and J. Cole, Big Sean drives confidently in his own lane. I Decided. flashes retro Soul vibes, found in the Eddie Kendricks-sampling “Light,” and maintains its cohesive balance by the time it reaches the Trap for “Sacrifices.” Sean is decidedly at the top of his game and arrives there with a knack for hit-making and the courage to write his most accessible and substantial verses. – Bandini

Released: February 3, 2017
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam Records
Guests: Eminem, Migos, Jeremih, The-Dream, Twenty88, Flint Chozen Choir, Starrah
Producers: (self), Metro Boomin, Key Wane, DJ Khalil, DJ Mustard, DJ Dahi, Detail, Hitmaka, WondaGurl, Travi$ Scott, Allen Ritter, Amaire Johnson, Cary Singer, FrancisGotHeat, Fuse, Gregg Rominiecki, Hey DJ Camper, Maximilian Jaeger, RobGotBeats, Sidney Swift, Smash David, The Track Burnaz, Tre Pounds

Stay up to date on the daily results.