The Grammys have been irrelevant to music since at least 2002, which was the third time in the award show’s history that rap song was nominated for Record of the Year. It wasn’t because the Academy nominated the wrong rap song; OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” was a legitimate crossover hit, influencing the mainstream (read as: older, whiter) that tends to pay attention to the Grammys, not unlike the two previous nominees, “U Can’t Touch This” and “Gangsta’s Paradise.” No, the gold gramophone became irrelevant because 2002 was the first year a rap album was the best selling album in a calendar year regardless of genre, and since then, there have been no rap songs to win the award.
Of course, there were no Record of the Year awards given to rappers before then. But the year 2002 represented a cultural shift where a popular rap song or album did not mean a Top 40 hit, it meant the most popular song or album in the country. This was not Hammer or Coolio or the critically acclaimed Fugees being rewarded with a guest chair at the cool kids’ table, this was sliding up a lumbar-supporting lawn chair to a row of bar stools. In 2004, with four of the five nominees containing rap or something very close to it, the award went to Coldplay.
Lauryn Hill and OutKast have won Album of the Year, clearly serving as the exceptions that prove the rule. Rap albums must go platinum, and then not have that much rapping on it, to win an important Grammy. The only two rappers ever nominated for Song of the Year, an award that tends to reward songwriting, have been Eminem and Kanye West. Macklemore was also nominated this year, and it’s no coincidence that two of the three nominated rappers are white in the songwriting category.
The Grammys had stuck their flag into the moving ground, handing out major awards to U2 and Norah Jones when Nelly or Ja Rule should’ve been sweeping their trophies off the floor. In 2014, the Grammys have Macklemore performing with Madonna, serving as Caucasian appropriator translators, and Kendrick Lamar performing with Imagine Dragons like the Steve-O-hosted game show Killer Karaoke. The Academy has put both the R&B category and the Rap one in a ghetto of sorts, one that will never win the main awards and hearkens back to when there was a genre called “black music” with their “Best Urban…” category. We here at Rhyme Junkie want to give the four Best Rap categories their due, even if Macklemore will end up winning everything.
This is also a proper introduction to the writing staff here, with Trisity, Ghost and Clyde providing commentary and picks. And Michael Ma will make his debut for the site later in the week, but in the meantime you can find him on Twitter or at the Houston Rockets Fansided site Space City Scoop. And also be sure to follow the Rhyme Junkie Twitter for all things rhyme and junk related.
Best Rap Performance
Drake – “Started from the Bottom”
Eminem – “Bezerk”
Jay Z – “Tom Ford”
Kendrick Lamar – “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop”
Even with the two best rappers my generation has encountered and the biggest independent rapper ever, this award comes down to 1A (Kendrick) and 1B (Drake). It may be too early to call this a rivalry despite the back and forths, but this is a great way to hype of something of that nature. Remember “…and I still got the Grammy for the album of the year” by Ludacris in response to TI’s “had the album of the year right, Grammy or not”? This could be similar. I’m going with “Started From the Bottom” here. - Trisity Miller
Looking at this you would think and honestly figure that “Swimming Pools” would win, seeing how its the best song out the bunch. However this is The Grammys we’re talking about so we gotta toss logic out the window. To be honest I have no problem if “Berzerk” or “Tom Ford” won. However, if “Started From The Bottom” or “Thrift Shop” wins then well yeah, that’s that bull.
Prediction: “Berzerk” - Ghost
The opening piano loop and halting first word of “Started from the Bottom” will prove as influential as any of Beethoven’s symphonies or the Budweiser Whassup? campaign. It will be very difficult for the voters to choose between the two dads and Macklemore on this list, and my heart goes out to them. The best rap performance of the year was obviously Semi. - Clyde Lovellette
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
J. Cole feat. Miguel – “Power Trip”
Jay Z feat. Beyoncé – “Part II (On the Run)”
Jay Z feat. Justin Timberlake – “Holy Grail”
Kendrick Lamar feat. Mary J. Blige – “Now or Never”
Wiz Khalifa feat. The Weeknd – “Remember You”
Of the four Grammy categories based predominately on hip-hop, this one is definitely the weakest. I’ll blame those who chose the nominees, because there have been better collaborations in the past year.
Both Jay-Z songs were borderline awful despite the notoriety that comes with being Jay-Z. I rarely remember what the Wiz/Weeknd song sounds like, which doesn’t bode well for a Grammy nominee. And Kendrick/Mary J. doesn’t deserve to be here, but they probably wanted to give Kendrick another chance at an award.
With that said, there is only one true standout here and that’s “Power Trip” by J. Cole and Miguel. Preference matters, so I can’t make my one thought that of everyone else’s, but Cole x Miguel was one of the best hip-hop singles to hit the airwaves last year. - TM
If we’re playing the odds then it’s a pretty safe bet that the Jigga man walks away with the Grammy here. Again this is The Grammys so those odds mean nothing. “Power Trip” is easily the best song here. Hell it was the best song played on radio all last year. I don’t know why or how “Now or Never” made the list other than a place holder. “Remember Me” sounds like every other Weeknd song with a rapper on it (take that how you may). “Holy Grail” is “Holy Grail” (again take it how you want). Not even discussing “Part II”.
Prediction: Cole & Miguel – “Power Trip” - G
These nominees are like a fiery red flag for why rap and R&B need more collaborations these days. I mean they really couldn’t find a single song with rapping and singing besides completely forgotten Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa songs from 2012? Can Nicki Minaj win this award by collaborating with herself? I thought Kelly Rowland and Pusha T made some good songs together this year, and would be fine with never hearing any of the five songs above. - CL
Best Rap Song
A$AP Rocky feat. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar – “Fuckin’ Problems”
Jay Z feat. Justin Timberlake – “Holy Grail”
Kanye West – “New Slaves”
Drake – “Started from the Bottom”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz – “Thrift Shop”
There should be a description that comes with these awards. What do they mean by “best” rap song. The best lyrics? ASAP Rocky wins. Best song? Kanye probably wins. Biggest success? Macklemore probably wins. More prevalent in the hip-hop community? Drake probably wins. This leaves Jay-Z all in his lonesome, so I guess I could award him with most hyped.
I actually think “Thrift Shop” pulls out a victory here, but it’s because I don’t think the other four options make a strong enough case. Add to the fact that I find it hard to believe Macklemore leaves the Grammy’s without winning AT LEAST one of the four mentioned awards. So best rap song it is. - TM
Well let’s see, I’ve shared my thoughts on three of these songs. That leaves “Fuckin Problems” and “New Slaves”. Personally I love “New Slaves” to death. “Fucking Problems” is a heater that still rings off. Only problem with it is that it may just be the worst radio edit in a long time. So taking that in consideration it’s not gonna win a Grammy. I’m gonna say The Grammy goes to the song that my 13 year old niece was bouncing around the place half of last year singing.
Prediction: “Started From The Bottom” - G
I really couldn’t predict whether the Academy would pick between Rudy Guiliani and Fred Thompson, aka Jay-Z and Macklemore. Also, as much as Tauheed Epps aka 2 Chainz winning a Grammy would warm the cockles of my heart, a presenter accepting the award for an absent Kanye West’s song “New Slaves” might single-handedly make the show relevant. I would be fine with Drake winning. - CL
Best Rap Album
Drake - Nothing Was the Same
Jay Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Kanye West - Yeezus
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
The award of all awards. It’s a bit funny how the biggest award for a hip-hop artist holds little weight. Often the nominations are skewed to include those who produced better numbers rather than one who produced a higher quality product. All the talk has been around how Macklemore/Ryan Lewis have a huge chance to win this award. Independent duo. Sales were great. Several radio hits. etc. Even with all of that behind them, I just can’t see this committee allowing them to win, though I may be giving them too much credit.
You can refer to what I wrote about the Best Rap Performance award. Two legends (Jay and Ye), the Indie Hero (M/RL) and Drake/Kendrick. Same thoughts apply, but this time I’m going with K.Dot. I can’t think of a mainstream rap album dropped by a new artist that had an impact similar to Kendrick. He hit hard on all levels (lyrics, music, sales, radio hits) and the Grammy would be a nice icing on the cake to the last few years Lamar has experienced.
SN: It bothers me not seeing J. Cole’s “Born Sinner” nominated here. He deserved to be here. - TM
First thing first, how often does the actual best album win? Exactly. So to avoid my frustration showing, the Grammy for this one should go to GK,MC or NWTS but however it won’t. We all know that it won’t and we all know why and who will end up with it.
Prediction: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – The Heist - G
The two albums I actually loved the most last year have absolutely no chance of winning. If the Grammys want to act like they’re “prestegious,” they’ll vote for Jay-Z. If they want to act “hep,” they’ll pick Kendrick Lamar. And if the Grammys want to be the Grammys, they’ll pick Macklemore. - CL