Get Gus Johnson on the phone, March Madness is off and running!
As a quick recap for those who might have missed our selection process, here's the deal. For our second annual DJBooth March Madness Rap Tournament, we're tackling the best new hip-hop album, "new" meaning released in the last five years. In terms of "best" we're weighing commercial success, cultural impact, inherent quality and more - it's a kitchen sink situation. And we select each winner through a highly scientific process that involves myself, Yoh and Lucas getting on the phone and yelling at each other until we either reach a consensus or someone makes a strong enough case to swing one other guy his way. If Lucas only says "Oh fuck this" and walks away once during the call, I consider it to have gone pretty smoothly.
And with that, let's get to the results. The updated bracket is below, followed by game by game breakdowns.
Cilvia Demo vs. Oxymoron: Winner, Oxymoron
This is a good time to remind people that the seeding was completely random, so it was only by chance that two TDE compatriots faced off in the first round. I knew I was going with Oxymoron from the jump, but frankly I expected to lose. I respect Cilvia Demo, but I've noticed it's actually beloved by younger folks, like Lucas and Yoh. It's apparently one of those albums that speaks for a generation, just not my generation. And sure enough, initially they were both against me, but then I started talking about "Gangsta," about how brilliant "Prescription/Oxymoron" was, how it elevated ScHoolboy into a music industry force in his own right, and against all odds I convinced Yoh to come over to my side. As much as he's grown to appreciate Oxy, we're still just one match in and Lucas is already saying "Fuck this" and walking away.
My Krazy Life vs. The Water[s]: Winner,The Water[s]
This one really boiled down to commercial success vs. artistic intent. YG's latest was a west coast masterpiece that also did some serious numbers, that album had hits on it, especially on the west coast and in the South. On the other side of the same coin, Water[s] isn't some minor affair, it was plenty popular in its own right, but from top to bottom its a conceptual affair that doesn't get lost in concept. After a lot of back and forth we went with Mick's breakthrough, which is good news because that's a great album, but bad news because I'm pretty sure the state of California is going to tax me extra for voting against YG.
Summertime '06 vs. Run the Jewels 2: Winner, Summertime '06
One of those match-ups where you hate to see a loser. Both Vince and RTJ are exactly the kind of artists hip-hop needs, artists who aren't afraid to speak their truth, and both are excellent albums. In real life I just listen to both albums constantly, but since this is a tournament, I had to go with Summertime 06, and Yoh agreed. As incredible as RTJ2 is, Summertime '06 captured the hell that is poverty and race in America more powerfully than any album I've heard in recent memory, with the possible exception of GKMC (possible future match-up?). Lucas was absolutely livid. Notice a theme?
XXX vs. Because the Internet: Winner, Because the Internet
One of only two unanimous victories in this opening round of the tournament. All praise due to Danny, XXX was the album that put him on, predicted hip-hop's drug obsession and remains a brilliant example of scrappy, raw hip-hop at its finest, but it just couldn't get over Because the Internet. Not only did Gambino put together a musically excellent project, but everything related to the album, from the music videos to hidden Easter eggs to an accompanying script, magnified the album's theme. Gambino displayed a mastery of the internet age even rappers far richer and more famous haven't been able to touch.
Watch the Throne vs. Forest Hills Drive: Winner, 2014Forest Hills Drive
I won't front, I couldn't wait to see Watch the Throne go. It has its moments, but overall I thought it had almost shockingly little long-term impact for an album that saw to superstar forces come together. I recognize that for some people though it was the kind of album that soundtracked an entire summer, and you have to give it its props on a historical level, so props given. But it's not like Forest Hills Drive was some little underground album that just came and went, even Obama loves that album, so I fought hard to bounce WTT in the first round and I won. I wouldn't feel bad for Kanye or Jay, they're still planking on a million.
Definitely one that belongs in the "all praise due" category. When we wrote that PRhyme was the most hip-hop album of the year we meant it, it's an incredible piece of work from two artists who represent so much of what we love about this culture. There's really no "but" here, there's no arguing against it. Acid Rap is simply an amazing album in its own right, and it has the added benefit of being one of those rare albums that helps define a generation and launches a career. I hate that it had to be this way, but Acid Rap wins in a nail biter. I promise, we're not sleeping on Royce and Premo.
Nothing Was the Same vs. DS2: Winner, Nothing Was the Same
DS2 was the album that elevated Future from a popular rapper primarily known for his mixtapes to a full-fledged star, an artist who could sell albums in his own right, had his own hive and made even the most popular rapper on the planet want to do a joint album with him. But Nothing Was the Same was the album that launched Peak Drake, that took Drizzy from "very popular rapper" to unquestionably the most influential rapper of his generation. "Started From the Bottom," "Worst Behavior," "Hold On," all songs good in their own right that also exploded as internet phenomenons and set the stage for everything Drake's doing now. It was kind of a big deal. Drake advances.
Return of 4Eva vs. GKMC: Winner, GKMC
Why did it have to be GKMC? Why? Nothing would have given me more pleasure than having Big K.R.I.T.'s breakthrough project, and I believe still his best, knock off an album like Watch the Throne. But March Madness is a cruel mistress, sometimes the match-ups don't go your way, so while Return of 4Eva is easily the kind of album that could have Cinderella'd it's way to a Final Four or even championship game, it just couldn't hold up against the classic juggernaut that is GKMC, which I think it emerging as the favorite in this tournament. Sorry Krizzle, I hate that it had to be like this.
And there you have it, the Sweet 16 is in the record books. Emotions are running high, but that's the spririt of the tournament. We'll be back early next week with the results of the next round, enjoy your "March Madness."
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.