Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana Is YOUR Best Rap Album Of 2019

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

A few hours before Tyler, The Creator’s Igor won the Grammy—this afternoon (January 26), the tournament to decide 2019’s Best Rap Album came to an exciting close. The same day as the 62nd Grammy Awards, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Bandana bested Gang Starr’s One Of The Best Yet, 55% to 45%. This award was decided by the fans, voting on these matchups throughout the month. Thus, the Gary, Indiana native MC and the Oxnard, California producer’s sophomore collaborative LP won Ambrosia For Heads‘ third-annual tournament to decide the best Hip-Hop album of the calendar.

The tournament consisted of Ambrosia For Heads‘ Top 15 albums of 2019 in addition to a Wild Card with write-in options (the winner of that was Diamond D’s Diam Piece 2). To get the title, “MadGibbs” defeated YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy (90% to 10%), Little Brother’s May The Lord Watch (60% to 40%), and Benny The Butcher’s The Plugs I Met (66% to 34%) all before getting to DJ Premier and Guru’s first album in 16 years.

The follow-up to 2014’s Pinata, Bandana is the second album in a reported trilogy that includes an upcoming third LP, Montana. Like the first, this release involved a star-studded guest list. Pusha-T, Black Thought, Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey, and Anderson .Paak appeared on the work. Meanwhile, Gangsta Gibbs and Otis Jackson, Jr. released Bandana through a major label situation on Keep Cool/RCA Records. Gibbs also headlined his Album Of The Year Tour, brandishing his opinion of the work.

While Bandana adheres to the formula of Freddie Gibbs looking back at his past life in the streets. A character introduced in videos at the top of the last decade, “Freddie Caine” has moved on to escape a life of crime (even if it pays). While he’s living a simple life, at least at a surface glance, living, breathing demons from his past come back seeking revenge. This story arc was reinforced through Bandana‘s music videos. The character is not unlike Gibbs’ personal life back in the streets of Gary, Indiana, and later, Los Angeles, California. An artist who was wasting away on the Interscope Records shelves roughly a dozen years ago, has become a predominant MC in Rap.

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Meanwhile, Madlib has stated that he made his beats on an iPad for this album. The veteran DJ, producer, and MC pulled sounds from Tenor Saw, Syl Johnson, Donny Hathaway, and fellow Stones Throw family alum The Heliocentrics.

For Gibbs, the recording represented something incredibly meaningful. “There were a lot of things that I didn’t want to see—a lot of things that I still deal with mentally,” he told HOT 97’s Peter Rosenberg in July, about being detained during 2016 rape accusations by two women from Austria. That trial ended in an acquittal, as Freddie has vehemently maintained his innocence. “This album right here, man, this album was a form of therapy. It was therapeutic. I said a lot of things on this record that I maybe, probably wouldn’t have said if I wasn’t facing 10 years in prison. That’s why this album is my baby, because it got me back to my babies.” In that same tearful interview, Madlib credited Freddie Gibbs with being his favorite rapper alive, at the moment. This win comes at a time when Madlib is producing a second Black Star album. According to Talib Kweli, that album is complete.

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Across 15 tracks and 46 minutes, this album feels elevated, spirited, and raw—without taking itself too seriously.

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Congratulations to Freddie Gibbs & Madlib for their work on Bandana.