It's time to cut down the nets, put together the highlight reels and go home. Just like the actual March Madness tournament, after weeks of blood, sweat and blogging, the DJBooth Best New Hip-Hop Album Tournament has come to a close.
As a quick recap for those just tuning in for the championship results, only albums released in the last five years were eligible, and in terms of "best" we weighed commercial success, cultural impact, inherent quality and more. To determine the winner of each "game," Yoh, Lucas and I got on the phone and yelled at each other until we at least got a 2-1 vote in favor of one album. I'd say things got surprisingly personal and angry, but that was no surprise. Last year's tournament tested our friendship too.
This year's championship game was an all TDE-affair as Cinderella story ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron went up against juggernaut Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city. Groovy Q put up a fight, after all it's Q's "YAWK YAWK YAWK!" that kicks off GKMC's title track, but ultimately, Kendrick once again walked away with the crown. Ladies and gentlemen, good kid, m.A.A.d city is the best hip-hop album of the last five years.
At this point I shouldn't have to explain GKMC's greatness, that's been done extensively. It's a deeply conceptual album that ranges from spine-breaking bangers ("M.A.D.D. City") to complex storytelling ("Sing About Me") to radio singles ("Poetic Justice"). The album went platinum, launched Kendrick Lamar into mainstream super-stardom and encapsulated much of America's current struggle; what is the story of Trayvon Martin and Laquan McDonald and so many more but the story of a good kid swallowed up by a mad city?
Truth be told, in our heart of hearts there wasn't any serious question that GKMC deserved to win the championship. Our only hesitation lay in the trap of predictability. It's no fun when the tournament favorite wins by 15 points in the championship game, the joy of the tournament is in the last second buzzer beaters, the underdog upsets, the victories you could have never predicted. So throughout the tournament we tried to find reasons to knock out GKMC, to make sure we weren't just on Kendrick Lamar auto-pilot. We sang the praises of Return of 4Eva and Nothing Was the Same and Acid Rap in an attempt to unseat the presumptive victor, but no dice. I don't know what to else to tell you but that this really, truly is the best hip-hop album of the last five years. It just is.
The good news is that while fun, this tournament isn't real life. In real life music doesn't have any winners, you don't have to make any hard choices. I've listened to and continue to listen to all of these albums all the time (except for "Watch the Throne") and if this bracket taught me anything, it's that we've heard some great new hip-hop in the last five years and that the new generation truly has arrived. Praise be to new hip-hop.
The now completed bracket is below for those interested in the full journey. See you next year people.