Who Had The Best Rap Album Of 2019 (Battle 13): Rapsody 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 first of two Final 4 match-ups is between Rapsody’s Eve and 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 Rapsody’s Eve, 63% to 37%.

Rapsody – Eve
(Defeated Big K.R.I.T.’s K.R.I.T. IZ HERE70% to 30% in Round 2 )
(Defeated Add-2’s Jim Crow The Musical 84% to 16% in Round 1)

It’s been said many times before, but this year was a tremendous year for women in Hip-Hop. From Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer” campaign to Queen Latifah’s Harvard University Award and Missy Elliott’s Video Vanguard performance, women in Rap made history on and off the charts. Rapsody placed herself firmly at the head of the table with the August release of Eve, the follow-up to her Grammy-nominated 2017 album Laila’s Wisdom. The Snow Hill, North Carolina MC is a veteran who got her start rapping as a member of Kooley High back in the 2000s, but for many Eve signaled her overdue acknowledgment as one of the best rappers out today, period. She did it with a serious devotion to Black femininity, choosing to title each track after her heroes, all of whom are women of color. She celebrates financial independence alongside Leikeli47 on “Oprah,” honors her Hip-Hop forefathers and foremothers with GZA and D’Angelo on “Ibtihaj,” and triumphs the women who’ve helped her along the way with Queen Latifah on “Hatshepsut.” Together with her Jamla family including 9th Wonder and Khrysis, Rapsody released a monumental piece of work that coupled discussions about undeniable lyrical talent with love letters to Black women, reminding us with the album’s title that we all come from the same, original Black woman hundreds of thousands of of years ago. And for those who may have missed the unfettered bars she spits all over the album, it only takes one spin of the opening track, “Nina,” to be reminded that Rapsody isn’t hiding behind a high-brow concept album nor satisfied with being known only as the best female rapper: “Know I’m a God MC, ’cause ni**a, I made the devil wait.” – Amanda Mester

Released: August 23, 2019
Label: Jamla/Roc Nation
Guests: Leikeli47, K. Roosevelt, GZA, D’Angelo, Mereba, Elle Varner, SiR, J.I.D, Queen Latifah, J. Cole, PJ Morton
Producers: The Soul Council, (9th Wonder, Eric G, Khrysis & Nottz), Mark Byrd

Gang Starr – One Of The Best Yet
(Defeated Skyzoo & Pete Rock’s Retropolitan 61% to 39% in Round 2)
(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