Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2017 (The Final Battle): Kendrick Lamar vs. Big K.R.I.T.
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 the readers choosing which album is the best of the year. For the last several days, we pit albums against one another, battle style, and the winners were determined by your votes.
The tournament began with 16 albums and, now, only two remain. In two of the closer battles of the contest, Big K.R.I.T.’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time defeated Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom by a margin of fifteen percentage points. Similarly, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. bested Joey Bada$$’ All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ by seventeen percent. Now, the MC who shook up the Hip-Hop world with his show-stealing verse on Big Sean’s “Control” takes on the artist who many believe crafted the best response to Kendrick’s putting the industry on notice, with his “Mt. Olympus.”
While sonically very different, DAMN. and 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time share many similarities. Thematically, both albums find each artist in periods of heavy introspection, at times cocky and unyielding (“DNA.” and “Confetti“), and, in other instances, feeling like the world is against them (“FEEL.” and “Price of Fame“). The projects also were very much statement albums for each artist. After To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick was put into the box of being a “conscious artist,” deemed highly-skilled at making conceptual albums, but not as capable at making hit records as some of his peers. He responded by making the best selling album of 2017, enjoying several radio hits, without sacrificing any of his art. For his part, many likely counted K.R.I.T. out after he was released from his major label contract with Def Jam, but the Meridian, MS MC took his destiny in his own hands, invested in himself, and it paid off handsomely. He enjoyed one of the best year’s of his career, and it was 100% true to his vision.
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
Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
Two of 2017’s more memorable Rap narratives urge listeners to trust the process and invest in themselves. Big K.R.I.T. transitioned from a major label rapper with back-to-back Top 5 album appearances to a creative who admittedly emptied his savings to make 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time. Now, more than any point in his career, the music is all his—and he’s generous about giving it out. Krizzle’s first album in three years acts as a double serving of more soul food. A conceptual visionary since his breakthrough mixtapes, this 2LP carefully separates the custom cars, table dances, and nights out from the reflective, exposed, and sometimes tortured soul across its two discs. The Big K.R.I.T. side of the double album is a celebration. He’s throwing “Confetti,” toasting and boasting, all while honoring Juvenile, UGK, Dungeon Family, and Bone Thugs. The heavier half of the 22 songs come on side 2. On the Justin Scott disc “Keep The devil Off” is a fervid charge against negativity, told with Southern Gothic imagery at an intersection of Rap, Gospel, and Funk. “The Price Of Fame” unpacks the disillusion the MC/producer has felt, and the toll a public career has taken on his joy. This gets followed by another lucid soliloquy in “Drinking Sessions.” K.R.I.T.’s Multi Alumni movement makes sense for an artist who spits as well as he makes beats. This double album is multi-faceted too in its refined ability to make a section for those nights out, and provide another for those examinations within. – Jake Paine