Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2018 (Battle 8): Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz vs. Royce 5’9

We have our opinions on the best releases of 2018, but rather than simply tell you our pick for #1, we thought it would be more interesting to hear what you, the readers, believe is the Best Rap Album of 2018. With that in mind, we decided to make our Best Rap Albums Of 2018 list a living breathing conversation, that would ultimately lead to you, the readers, choosing which album is the best of the year. Throughout December, we will pit albums against one another, battle style, and your votes will determine the winners.

We’ve chosen 15 albums that we think represented the best Hip-Hop of 2018. Inevitably, we left off some LPs that you believe should be included, so, we held a wildcard round (with a write-in option) where readers picked the album they feel most deserved a spot on the list.

The bracket-style competition among the final 16 albums has begun. Each weekday, albums will face off against one another. In each case, voting will close after 24 hours. We will go from the Sweet 16 to the Elite 8 to the Final 4 to the Championship Finals, with one album emerging as the victor. The sixth match-up is the Wild Card winner, Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz’s Mona Lisa taking on Royce 5’9’s Book Of Ryan. Make sure your opinion is heard and gets counted (click on your album’s artwork in the box below, then click “vote”).

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – Mona Lisa

Apollo Brown has built a career and a devoted following out of carefully crafting standout albums with elite MCs from far and wide. Joell Ortiz is the latest, arriving at a point of transition. Slaughterhouse’s floating hiatus hit jagged rocks at midyear. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn, New York wordsmith continues to show growth and maturity in his solo album-making. Mona Lisa celebrates the beauty of imperfections and stands as a hallmark LP in both artists’ catalogs. From opener “Reflection,” Ortiz opens his rhyme book and interior monologue to the listener. This moment, among others, reaches a level of intimacy and trust between this MC and his base. Fellow ‘House gang alum Royce shows up on the aggressive “Timberlan’d Up,” showing that both MCs still enjoy butchering beats with battle-ready bars. On “Cocaine Fingertips” and “My Block,” listeners get that raw Jo-Ell flavor that made him a 12″ single sensation. Apollo’s production stands apart from his acclaimed work with O.C., Ras Kass, and The Left. With lush samples that feel homegrown more than picked off of vintage vinyl plates. The mood is contemplative and dramatic but without any wallowing or melancholy. This LP highlights the myth of a Rap meritocracy, remembers a time and place that exists far beyond the Internet, and finds the real beauty not only in the flaws, but in collaboration. – Jordan Commandeur and Jake Paine

Released: October 26, 2018
Label: Mello Music Group
Guests: Royce 5’9, DJ Los
Producers: self


Royce 5’9 – Book Of Ryan

In a career filled with a variety of impactful releases, Royce 5’9’s most personal and complex offering arrived this year. Book Of Ryan has Royce reflecting on chapters of his childhood as he takes audit on his life as a proudly sober family-man. It’s easily his most intimate, introspective album to date, as he goes page by page through his past, exploring his father’s struggles with addiction on “Cocaine,” the physical abuse his family endured on “Power,” and even life’s loss of innocence on “Boblo Boat.” One of 2018’s longer albums at the top, it maintains a cohesive narrative that’s tied together with perfectly executed skits. Nickel Nine can paint vivid pictures with his words to put the listeners directly in the shoes of both his younger and present-day self. For Heads who are more used to Royce demolishing a beat first and asking questions later, he has a few competitive joints sprinkled between his story, reuniting Bad Meets Evil on the Eminem-assisted “Caterpillar” and recruiting Pusha-T, Jadakiss, and Fabolous for the hyped “Summer On Lock.” Book Of Ryan proves to be Royce’s best look into the mirror, and has him evolving beyond the killer MC he’s known as, and into a true artist that can resonate with his story. – Sypher

Released: May 4, 2018
Label: Heaven Studios/eOne Music
Guests: Eminem, J. Cole, Pusha-T, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Logic, Boogie, Marsha Ambrosius, Robert Glasper, T-Pain, King Green, Ashley Sorrell, Agent Sasco, Melanie Rutherford, Chavis Chandler
Producers: Mr. Porter, S1, AntMan Wonder, Boi-1da, Cool & Dre, DJ Khalil, 808-Ray, Epikh Pro, Frank Dukes, Fuse, !llmind, Key Wane, The Maven Boys, StreetRunner, Tarik Azzouz

So which is better?

Ambrosia For Heads’ Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Of 2018 List:

Black Milk – Fever
Black Thought – Streams Of Thought, Vol. 2
Buddy – Harlan & Alondra
Evidence – Weather Or Not
J. Cole – K.O.D
Jay Rock – Redemption
Mac Miller – Swimming
Masta Ace & Marco Polo – A Breukelen Story
Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap
Phonte – No News Is Good News
Royce 5’9 – Book Of Ryan
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele