Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 8): Freddie Gibbs & Madlib vs. YBN Cordae

Over the last couple of years, Ambrosia For Heads has asked our readers to help us determine the Best Rap Album for 2017 and 2018, respectively. In looking at the top music of 2019, we believe that instead of letting the Grammy Awards—a committee who does not know anything about the culture—tell us what the “Best Rap Album” is, Hip-Hop Heads should raise their voices at the exact same time.

We have chosen 15 albums that we think represented the best Hip-Hop of 2019. 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. Every day between January 9 and January 24, albums will face off against one another. The tournament winner will be announced Sunday, January 26, the same night as the 2020 Grammy Awards. In the case of each battle, voting will close after 24 hours. The competition 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 eighth and final battle of the tourney’s Round 1 is between Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana and YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy. This battle ballot is on AFH‘s Facebook page in the video. UPDATE: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana has defeated YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy, 90% to 10%.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s latest entry in their collaboration trilogy, Bandana, plays out like a fine piece of cinema. Five years removed from Piñata, the “Freddie Caine” character is a reformed drug kingpin, at least at the surface. In a Hip-Hop adaptation of Carlito’s Way, he wants the straight path, but the underbelly of his past won’t let him chill. Although a comedic portrayal in the LP’s music videos, the character’s lyrics are reinforced with Gibbs’ uncompromising stories from his life outside of Rap. He deploys the tales using various flows, sometimes jack-hammering his words into the sample-based beats. Madlib, whose soulful production (reportedly made on an iPad) creates a visual mood for Freddie Gibbs to showcase his criminal escapades within. As always, Otis Jackson, Jr. walks the line between film score and Hip-Hop through his own controlled chaos. Gibbs paints a picture of the success he’s achieved through an underworld of drugs on “Crime Pays.” He spits candidly of a secret love affair with “Practice.” The MC also reflects on how murder affects a person’s sanity on “Fake Names.” The features may be even more exciting, from Anderson .Paak’s powerful impression on “Giannis,” to stellar appearances from Killer Mike, Pusha-T, Yasiin Bey, and Black Thought on “Palmolive” and “Education,” divided respectively. Packaged with skits, obscure Soul samples, and flawless transitions, Bandana feels at home with other recent Gangsta Rap releases, yet unconcerned with competition of any kind. – Kevin Cortez

Released: June 28, 2019
Label: Keep Cool/RCA Records
Guests: Killer Mike, Pusha-T, Anderson .Paak, Yasiin Bey, Black Thought
Producers: self

YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

Like Lil Pump, Rich The Kid, JuiceWRLD, Lizzo, Nav and others, YBN Cordae is one of the relative newcomers who made a big splash on the 2019 charts. With his debut album, July’s The Lost Boy, the North Carolina and Maryland-reared rapper cracked the Top 15 with the support of guest appearances from Pusha-T, Meek Mill, Anderson .Paak and Chance The Rapper, plus a J. Cole production credit. The 21-year-old’s breakout success showcased his lyricism and his singing abilities, but also the wise-beyond-his-years approach to family, love, loss, success, death, addiction and (as the album’s title suggests) self-examination. Counting Jedi Mind Tricks and Black Star as inspirations, Cordae opted to feature the work of Gil Scott-Heron, Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack on his duet with Chance, “Bad Idea,” another example of the young talent’s appreciation for those who laid the foundation. While promoting the acclaimed album since the March release of lead video single “Have Mercy,” Cordae amassed plenty of recognition as a freestyle rapper, too. While visiting Funkmaster Flex at HOT 97, he delivered three exceptional verses in which he touts reading The Qur’an at 12, toasts JAY-Z and admonishes rappers who rap for rapping’s sake. In October, he released one of 2019’s most memorable music videos, for his Paak-assisted “RNP (Rich N*gga Problems).” Again, Cordae uses Black icons who came before him as inspiration, paying homage to Shaft and Superfly. Ultimately, what makes The Lost Boy one of the best albums of 2019 is not that a young MC made an album that older generations of Hip-Hop Heads can enjoy, but rather that he reminded us we’re never too old to rediscover ourselves. – Amanda Mester

Released: July 26, 2019
Label: Art@War/Atlantic Records
Guests: Chance The Rapper, Pusha-T, Anderson .Paak, Meek Mill, Ty Dolla $ign, Arin Ray
Producers: self, Cardiak, J. Cole, Kid Culture, Bongo ByTheWay, Terrace Martin, illuid.haller, Flippa, Nils, CoopTheTruth, Smoko Ono, Take a Daytrip, CoopTheTruth, Russ Chell, Bazexx, Slim, G Koop, Maneesh, Rasool

So which is better?

Ambrosia For Heads’ Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Of 2019 List:

Add-2 – Jim Crow The Musical
Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met
Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. IZ HERE
Boogie – Everythings For Sale
Dreamville – Revenge Of The Dreamers III
EarthGang – Mirrorland
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
Gang Starr – One Of The Best Yet
Griselda – WWCD
Little Brother – May The Lord Watch
Murs, 9th Wonder & The Soul Council – The Iliad Is Dead And The Odyssey Is Over
Rapsody – Eve
Skyzoo & Pete Rock – Retropolitan
Smif-n-Wessun – The All
YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy