Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 9): Skyzoo & Pete Rock vs. Gang Starr

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. Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan takes on Gang Starr’s One Of The Best Yet. This battle ballot is on AFH‘s Facebook page in the video. Make sure your opinion is heard. Vote there, and be counted. UPDATE: Gang Starr’s One Of The Best Yet has defeated Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan, 61% to 39%.

Skyzoo & Pete Rock – Retropolitan

Together with legendary producer Pete Rock, Brooklyn, New York MC Skyzoo penned a tribute to the New York City of yesterday and tomorrow in Retropolitan. Featuring verses from Styles P, Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, Benny The Butcher and Elzhi, the September release arrived just in time for cooler weather. The collaborative effort is a postcard from Hip-Hop’s birthplace, filled with S-K-Y’s reflections of life on his old block and the ways in which the city is changing. Pete and Sky’ set the conceptual tone with the artwork for the album’s lead single, “It’s All Good,” which paired a mural honoring a Black victim of police violence from decades ago with a foreground of NY’s modern-day bike-share system. Throughout the 12-track Mello Music Group release, Sky; recalls the golden age of coming up in a time when “my whole block was in Penny jerseys” while lamenting the stranglehold of gentrification that led him to see “spots get turned to croissant sellers.” On “Truck Jewels,” Heads were treated to a rare gem in the form of a Rap verse from P.R. which includes the quote-worthy “Me fallin’ off is like a Muslim at a luau.” The First Generation Rich founder carries the overwhelming majority of the album’s lyrical content on his own two (and, because he’s Skyzoo, he does it breathlessly). But on “Eastern Conference All-Stars,” a truly insane amount of lyricism packed itself into fewer than six minutes, with Conway, Benny, Westside Gunn and Elzhi joining Sky for 2019’s posse cut of the year. – Amanda Mester

Released: September 20, 2019
Label: Mello Music Group
Guests: Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, Elzhi, Styles P, Raheem DeVaughn
Producers: self

Gang Starr – One Of The Best Yet
(Defeated Murs, 9th Wonder & The Soul Council’s The Iliad Is Dead… 87% to 13% in Round 1)

Over 15 years since the iconic duo’s last release, and nearly a decade since the passing of Guru, Gang Starr resurfaced with One Of The Best Yet, the seventh full-length album in the pair’s historical 30-year campaign. While posthumous releases can oftentimes bear a stale and disconnected undercurrent, DJ Premier ingrained the spirit of Guru so tightly within this effort’s fabric. It is as if Baldhead Slick was still in the flesh, blessing the mic. Entirely produced by the legendary Preemo, it took him (along with Guru’s estate) sparring with Solar (a later collaborator of Guru’s) to obtain the rights to unreleased vocals that eventually became the foundation of this project. Part philosopher and part lyrical executioner, the unearthing of Guru’s buried words act as a grand testimony to his technique and impact transcending the test of time. These are evident in video singles such as “Family And Loyalty” and “Bad Name.” One Of The Best Yet also serves as a refreshing marriage between the then and now, with the elected features of contemporaries (Q-Tip), family members (Jeru, Group Home, M.O.P., etc.) and modern heavyweights (J. Cole, Royce, Talib) seamlessly blending distant eras. While closure wasn’t necessary in regards to Gang Starr’s standing within the history books, One Of The Best Yet does allow for a warmer and more triumphant conclusion to an otherwise magnificent tale of Hip-Hop supremacy. As Preemo’s renowned cuts have suggested throughout the duo’s existence, we’ve been “rocking with the best” for three decades now. What a true gift it is for the Hip-Hop faithful to have the pleasure of doing so with new Gang Starr, at least one more time. – Michael Blair

Released: November 1, 2019
Label: Gang Starr Enterprises/To The Top
Guests: Q-Tip, M.O.P. (Billy Danze & Lil Fame), Royce 5’9, Jeru The Damaja, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Ne-Yo, Nitty Scott, Big Shug, Freddie Foxxx, Group Home (Lil Dap & Melachi The Nutcracker)
Producer: 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