Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 14): Freddie Gibbs & Madlib vs. Benny
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 second of two Final 4 match-ups is between Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana and Benny The Butcher’s The Plugs I Met. This battle ballot is on AFH‘s Facebook page in the video. Make sure your opinion is heard. Vote there, and be counted. UPDATE: Madlib & Freddie Gibbs’ Bandana has defeated Benny’s The Plugs I Met, 66% to 34%.
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
Seasoning his craft for over two decades, Benny The Butcher’s The Plugs I Met is the grand culmination of a life spent balancing Hip-Hop and hustling. A veteran in both fields, the 30-something MC from Buffalo, New York has perfected the art of chronicling street-inspired tales throughout his career. No effort of his more vivid and expertly rendered than The Plugs I Met, the Griselda warhorse (and Black Soprano Family founder) is at his storytelling peak alongside some of Rap’s finest street couriers. Highlighting those choice pairings is the second track, “Crowns For Kings,” in which Black Thought accompanies Benny over ’70s Memphis Soul. In his first verse of the project, Benny delivers “I’m fresh out of luck, I’m here ‘cause I deserve to be, ni**a / I sat back, a vet, and watched beginners winnin’ my belts / Burned my bridges, came back a good swimmer like Phelps.” That robust self-assurance is a common theme throughout, as B.E.N.N.Y. has grasped his paid dues and demands his seat at the throne. The coveted kingship is aided even more so by enlisting street and Rap royalty in Jadakiss and Pusha-T for two separate brawny tracks. The LP benefits from a no-nonsense approach, carrying very limited choruses and focusing on tenacious wordplay. While many albums laced with unlawful subject matter can toe the line of hype, there are certainly no fabricated characters within Benny’s memoirs. That contrast of credibility is emphasized on “Took The Money To The Plug’s House,” where Benny states “I damn near don’t pray no more / Only to an eighth of raw / A fork and the mayo jar / Numbers, you inflated yours, you got a created buzz / My flow got the fans rethinking who the greatest was.” True to Benny and the album’s theme of keeping all operations tight and fruitful, The Plugs I Met packs in as much lyrical weight that seven tracks can possibly hold, and yields 25 minutes of the most potent musical dope that 2019 offered up. – Michael Blair
Released: June 21, 2019
Label: Black Soprano Family, LLC
Guests: Black Thought, Pusha-T, Jadakiss, Conway The Machine, 38 Spesh, RJ Payne
Producers: Alchemist, Daringer, Beat Butcha, DJ Shay
So which is better?
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