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BIG STEPPIN' WITH THE RAP GRAMMY NOMS

Kendrick Lamar didn’t just dominate the Rap categories of the 2023 Grammy nominations, he owned the Big 3 as well, scoring an Album of the Year nod for Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (pgLang/TDE/Aftermath/ Interscope) and Record/Song of the Year for “The Heart Pt. 5.” A nom in the Best Music Video category for “The Heart Pt. 5” brought his total to eight.

Freebandz/Epic’s Future netted six noms—among them Best Rap Album for I Never Liked You and Best Melodic Rap Performance for “WAIT FOR U” f/ Drake and Tems—while Gunna nabbed two for “pushin P” with Future and Young Thug.

CMG/Interscope’s GloRilla, who had a gorilla-sized hit with “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)" f/ HitKidd, landed a nom in Best Rap Song, as did RCA’s Latto, in the Best Melodic Rap Performance category for “Big Energy (Live).” 

Adding to Epic’s string of Rap nods, DJ Khaled scored big for his work on GOD DID (We the Best/Epic), earning Song of the Year, Best Rap Song and Rap Performance for the title track f/ Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, John Legend, Fridayy and that biblical verse from JAY-Z, Best Rap Album and Best Melodic Rap Song for “Beautiful” with Future and SZA.

Along with Pusha T’s critically acclaimed Def Jam release It’s Dry, Range-repped Jack Harlow was nominated in the Best Rap Album category, for Come Home The Kids Miss You, despite the project’s lukewarm reception among hip-hop purists. Harlow also picked up nods in Best Melodic Rap Song for “First Class” and Best Rap Song for “Churchill Downs” f/ Drake. 

As for Kemosabe/RCA’s Doja Cat, who was recognized in the Best Rap Song category for “Vegas” and Record of the Year for “Woman,” the debate goes on—is she Rap or Pop? Last year she won in Best Pop Vocal Album for Planet Her. This year, she earned nominations in Best Pop and Best Pop Performance Duo as well as Best Rap Song. Regardless, Doja (who recently changed her Twitter handle to “Fart”) is making her presence felt however and wherever she wants and emphatically doesn’t care what anyone thinks. 

Glaringly absent was the #1 single “Super Freaky Girl” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic) by Nicki Minaj, who called out the Recording Academy last month for making the song ineligible for the Rap categories and instead moving it to Pop. In its estimation, the “playful and pop-sounding song sampling Rick James' 1981 classic 'Super Freak’” had more Pop properties than Rap despite its debuting at #1 on both the R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap charts. During her Instagram rant, Minaj challenged the Grammys to explain the difference between Latto's Tom Tom Club-sampling “Big Energy” and “Super Freaky Girl.” While her points may have been valid, the rapper received a resounding zero nominations, bringing her ever-loyal Barbz to a boil on Twitter.

The Grammy powers that be also neglected a few other worthy contenders, including fan favorite Yeat, Republic’s Coi Leray, Nav and Kid Cudi, Motown’s Vince Staples, EMPIRE’s Babyface Ray and Alamo’s Lil Durk and Rod Wave, who both had impactful projects this year. 

With hip-hop on the verge of its 50th birthday, the genre has grown up and is, perhaps, at its most diverse. But the insatiable hunger for content that challenges listeners intellectually, spiritually and emotionally seems to be a call heeded only by Lamar and Pusha T. Black Thought and Danger Mouse’s beautifully curated collaboration, Cheat Codes (BMG), would have fit brilliantly into that realm but also failed to get recognized. 

Then again, with the stress of the ongoing pandemic, looming political upheaval, a war in Ukraine and the compounding consequences of global warming, there is a need for music that’s simply fun and doesn’t take much thought to enjoy. If anything, the Recording Academy got the balance right this year. We can both reflect on our complex human emotions and, simultaneously, as the kids say, turn up.

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