Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 1): Skyzoo & Pete Rock vs. Smif-N-Wessun

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 use their voice to speak up 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 are currently holding a had a wildcard round (with a write-in option) where readers pick the 2019 release they feel most deserved a spot on the list.

In the meantime, it is appropriate to commence the bracket-style competition among the final 16 albums (as the wildcard will be decided this evening) in consideration. Every day between now and January 24, albums will face off against one another. The 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 tournament 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 first battle is between Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan and Smif-N-Wessun’s The All. This battle ballot is on AFH‘s Facebook page in the video. Make sure your opinion is heard and gets counted. UPDATE: Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan has defeated Smif-N-Wessun’s The All, 65% to 35%.

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

Smif-N-Wessun – The All

They said, ‘Take ’em back to Dah Shinin’,’ but they don’t know the shape that my mind’s in,” Tek says under oath on “Testify,” a nod to Smif-N-Wessun’s influential 1995 debut. “The game’s different and my man’s gone,” he continues, noting the passing of fellow Boot Camp Clik member Sean Price. Whether intentional or a matter of circumstance, on an album characterized by progression, it’s almost appropriate that The All doesn’t feature a posthumous verse from S-N-W’s fallen protégé. Instead, Tek and Steele pay their respects in remembrance of their lost brother personally, referencing him or his former group Heltah Skeltah at least half a dozen times throughout the concise 12-track LP. With 9th Wonder and his Soul Council team at the helm, providing dynamic, multi-layered beats rooted by hard-hitting drums, the seasoned “rappin’ dudes” guide listeners on a biographical journey through their Bucktown upbringing and remind heads of their many contributions to the culture. The Brooklyn O.G.’s do so without sounding bitter, self-indulgent, or out of touch. Songs like “Dreamland” featuring Raekwon and Jamla songstress Heather Victoria or “Letter 4 U,” on which they pen vulnerable verses for various loved ones, offer glimpses into their personal lives. Others are more self-congratulatory, such as the album’s intro, the aforementioned “Testify” and “One Time” — which details the duo’s come-up using their own song titles, as well as their crew’s, as lyrical inspiration. About to celebrate the 25th birthday of their celebrated debut, Tek and General Steele give fans their best album since—one of maturity, evolution, and a deeper bond of brotherhood. – El Scribes

Released: February 22, 2019
Label: Bucktown USA Entertainment/Duck Down Music
Guests: Raekwon, Rick Ross, Rapsody, Musiq SoulChild, GQ, Heather Victoria, SmittytheCAINSMITH
Producers: The Soul Council (9th Wonder, Khrysis, Nottz, E. Jones, Eric G)

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