Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 11): Little Brother vs. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

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 Elite 8 has begun. It’s a face off between two amazing producer/MC batteries in 2019. Little Brother’s May The Lord Watch hits the ring with Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana. This battle ballot is on AFH‘s Facebook page in the video. Make sure your opinion is heard. Vote there, and be counted. UPDATE: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana has defeated Little Brother’s May The Lord Watch, 60% to 40%.

Little Brother – May The Lord Watch
(Defeated Diamond D’s Diam Piece 2 66% to 34% in Round 1)

After more than eight years of separation and giving fans less than 24 hours of notice, Little Brother reunited this year and released one of the best albums in its touted catalog. May The Lord Watch sees Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh reviving the L.B. brand with conscious bars that acknowledge the past, while still keeping tensions comfortably (and maturely) in the rearview. With “Right On Time,” both artists describe the stresses and sacrifices of trying to make it in music. Pooh recalls his time as an Uber driver to supplement his lulls in his indie entertainment career, while Phonte vents on the pressures he faces to balance being a great artist and family provider at once. Video single “Black Magic (Make It Better),” Phonte and Pooh celebrate the power of their skin and L.B.’s all-time knack to be authentic rappers and human beings. Interlaced between each bouncy, snappy beat provided by producers like Nottz, Khrysis, and Focus… are hilarious skits that honor their 2005 classic album, The Minstrel Show. Hip-Hop has changed in 15 years, and so has Little Brother. However, May The Lord Watch finds the thread between then and now. Unconcerned with modernization, but never pandering for nostalgia, Little Brother has created a stellar comeback record full of the humor, self-awareness, and sincerity. This duo seamlessly fills the void they left behind with rhymes, beats, and life. – Kevin Cortez

Released: August 20, 2019
Label: Imagination Nation/For Members Only/EMPIRE
Guests: Peter Rosenberg, Questlove, Darien Brockington, Madison McFerrin, Tamisha Waden, Joe Scudda, Carlitta Durand, Blakk Soul, BeMyFiasco
Producers: Khrysis, Nottz, Focus…, Black Milk, King Michael Coy, Blaaq Gold

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
(Defeated YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy 90% to 10% in Round 1)

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

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