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THOUGHTS ON THE URBAN GRAMMYS
How the Committee Did in the R&B, Urban Contemporary and Rap Categories

By Michelle Santosuosso

 

When eligibility is cut off at the end of September, nominations are announced in early December and the ceremony doesn’t happen until February, it’s destined to get weird with Grammy nods.  

 

The biggest surprise among the nominations was Beyoncé. With this round, Queen Bey officially became the most Grammy-nominated woman of all time. But apart from her Album of the Year nod she was only nominated in the urban categories, and left out of Song and Record of the Year.

 

Best R&B Song: This category is led by the trinity of Beyoncé, Usher and Chris Brown—all three have nominations in the R&B Performance category as well—alongside newcomer Jhene Aiko with “The Worst,” and the breakup ballad  “Options” from Luke James, a longshot to win but arguably the most lyrically powerful record of this entire category.

Urban Contemporary Album: Beyoncé, Chris Brown, and Pharrell are no-brainer choices here, but with Usher pushing back his album until 2015 thus taking himself out of contention, the Grammy committee had to come up with something to fill the void, where they can always be counted on for one WTF nomination. This year’s went to Fresno native Mali Music—an album that follows a real trend emerging in mainstream R&B music straddling the line of gospel.  This is apparent in hip-hop as well, most notably with the sales debut for Christian rapper Lecrae, who came in at #1 on the rap album chart earlier this year with “Anomaly.”

 

Best R&B Performance: All the appropriate heavy hitters, such as Beyoncé, Chris Brown and Usher, are here. But they’re joined by two very big voices in the performance category:  Jennifer Hudson for “It’s Your World,” and Ledisi for “Like This.” Before you say “Who’s That?” just know that Ledesi has been nominated nine times over the years.

 

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: This is probably the most fucked-up category in the ranks, with Kanye’s only other nomination this year and Common’s best chance at a Grammy. However, it’s a bit of a mystery why Jeremih/YG’s “Don't Tell ’Em” was passed over in this category for I Love Makonnen, since Jeremih not only tied John Legend’s “All Of Me” in number of weeks atop the Urban airplay charts last year, but he also has the biggest and best-known hook of them all in the Snap “Rhythm Is a Dancer” interpolation.  Clearly, unfamiliar rapper names must scare the NARAS nominations committee, so Jeremih and YG got faded. Also, why was ScHoolboy Q nominated for his random collaboration with BJ The Chicago Kid over that ubiquitous smash with Tinashe, “2 On?”  Talk to the hand…


Rap Performance:
All I can say about this category is NARAS, you get a golden-mic chance to redeem yourself from that fateful Macklemore situation in the Rap category last year, and honor Kendrick. Co-nominees Childish Gambino, Drake, Eminem and Lecrae are all worthy. But on the basis of performance, this category is a wrap. None of these nominees, including Eminem, can hold a candle to Kendrick smashing those bars on the bridge section for “i.”

Rap Song: “Anaconda” became a cultural movement about body size, “Bound 2” a most-parodied moment about booty size, “0 to 100” is yet another expression Drake contributed to the millennial slang vernacular, and “i” is the best bars of the year. As far as omissions, J. Cole’s “Be Free” deserved to be included; it’s a very important and powerful rap song—but also very political, since it’s a response to Michael Brown’s shooting. The Grammys ignored it; maybe they don’t like that message stuff.

 

Rap Album:

All I will say about this category is if Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic wins this category on the heels of last year’s victory by Macklemore, there will be issues.

 

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