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GRAMMY CHEW:
RAP EDITION

Special guest contributors: Michael Dominguez and Kyle Eustice

It’s time to focus on the hip-hop categories as we inch closer to the opening of the voting period for the 65th annual Grammy Awards. Word is strategic maneuvering is already going on in the genre committees. While there’s only one album winner for rap, there are a few performance/song noms up for grabs. Who will be deemed “hip-hop enough" and who will be ushered into another room?

Expect the acclaim for Kendrick Lamar—with 15 wins and nearly 40 nominations already under his belt—to continue. In May, K.Dot released Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (pgLang/TDE/Aftermath/Interscope), the highly anticipated follow-up to the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning smash DAMN. The buzz around the 18-track set was palpable and it earned overwhelming plaudits, which should translate to a Best Rap Album nod and love in the Big Four. As for Lamar’s songs, pre-album stand-alone track “The Heart Part 5,” which captivated viewers with a shape-shifting video, updated the celebrated rapper’s time-stamp song series (each entry in which has coincided with a major release).

Will this be the year Atlanta’s Future gets his due? It sure feels that way. With his ninth album, I Never Liked You, the Epic/ Freebandz rapper has produced another chart-topping project and one of the year’s biggest hits in “WAIT FOR YOU” f/Drake & Tems. The latter should be a strong contender in song categories in the genre and beyond. GQ’s cover story deeming Future the “Best Rapper Alive” didn’t hurt his position either.

Other strong candidates include DJ Khaled’s God Did (We the Best/Epic)—its title track featuring a JAY-Z verse of biblical proportions—veteran MC Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry (Def Jam) and Alamo’s pair of next-gen hip-hop stars, Lil Durk (7220) and Rod Wave (Beautiful Mind), who’ve taken over the charts and the streets but have yet to notch a Grammy nom.

Field Trip/Geffen’s Yeat is believed to be one of the hottest contenders in the new class of rappers; the L.A.-based artist’s intense delivery and mesmerizing, autotune-and-synth-heavy tracks have made him a force in the space.

Category watchers should also keep an eye on Dreamville/Interscope’s JID, whose acrobatic flow and tuneful tracks are likely to resonate with Academy musos and old-school hip-hop heads.

Kid Cudi’s Entergalactic (Republic), which drops right at the finish line, Vince Staples’ thoughtfully nostalgic Ramona Park Broke My Heart (Motown) and Detroit festival fave Babyface Ray's Face (EMPIRE) are also noteworthy releases, as are titles from fresh talent like Columbia’s Polo G, Evgle/Red Bull RecordsBlxst, Republic’s Coi Leray, XO’s Nav, EMPIRE’s Bleu and CMG’s compilation album Gangsta Art f/Yo Gotti & Moneybagg Yo (Interscope).

In the song/performance categories, frontrunners include Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” and “Do We Have a Problem?” (Republic); Lil Baby’s “In a Minute” (QC/Motown); Latto’s “Big Energy” (RCA); Cudi’s “She's Lookin' for Me,” “Can’t Believe It” f/2 Chainz and/or “Burrow”; Khaled’s aforementioned “God Did”; Lil Tjay’s “Beat the Odds” (Columbia); Yung Gravy’s “Betty (Get Money)” and “Dancing in the Rain” (Republic); Ray’s “My Thoughts 3/Pop’s Prayer” and “Dancing With the Devil” f/Landstrip Chip & Pusha T (EMPIRE); and HitKidd w/GloRilla’s “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” (Blac Noize/Big Machine/Interscope).

Latto and the Range-repped Jack Harlow (single “First Class” and album Come Home The Kids Miss You) could face an uphill battle in the genre as their work during the eligibility window featured pop smashes, but as we are always at pains to remind you, Grammy does what Grammy wants. Boundary-pushing creators Black Thought & Danger Mouse could also be in the mix for nods. 

  

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