CHEWING ON THE RAP NOMINEES


Kendrick Lamar
delivered his debut album, Section .80, in 2011; since then, he’s blossomed into a Pulitzer Prize-winning dynamo who continues to push the creative envelope. After five years of relative silence, the Compton native reemerged in May with the acclaimed Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (pgLang/TDE/Aftermath/Interscope).

This was great news for his fans but bad news for any other rapper dropping an album this year. K.Dot typically cleans up at the Grammys (we’ll leave aside Macklemore’s controversial win over good kid, m.A.A.d City in 2014), boasting a career total of 14 wins and 39 nominations. Now Lamar is looking at another potentially fruitful year. His work on Mr. Morale has netted eight nods, including Album of the Year and Best Rap Album.

With 60m Apple Music streams on its first day alone, Mr. Morale was one of the genre’s most-anticipated releases of the year, making it a strong contender for the Best Rap Album trophy. Will anyone be able to beat King Kendrick? Here are a few who might have a shot at the hardware.

The range Future showcases on his chart-topping album I Never Liked You (Freebandz/Epic) shouldn’t be underestimated. The project, Future’s ninth, went gold in roughly four weeks, a testament to his immense staying power. Similarly, Jack Harlow’s Come Home the Kids Miss You proved there’s a rabid audience for rap that doesn’t require intense lyrical dissection to fully digest.

On the flipside, Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music) is another critically acclaimed project, featuring stellar collaborations with the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Uzi Vert and Kid Cudi. As the Virginia native’s first solo #1, it solidified Pusha’s place among the rap elite. It very well could surprise us all and emerge victorious due to Pusha’s uncanny ability to rap about cocaine in a myriad of colorful ways (hey, you try it). Coupled with the album’s top-tier production, it’s prime Grammy fodder.

Meanwhile, DJ Khaled’s GOD DID (We The Best/Epic) appeals to a wide audience thanks in part to guest verses from a generation-spanning roster, including Drake, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Lil Baby and City Girls. With 13 albums, one Grammy and four noms under his belt, it just might be Khaled’s time to shine. Still, if we had to bet, Mr. Morale will take a big step toward Grammy glory when the winners are unveiled.

As for Best Rap Song, Future’s “WAIT FOR U” f/ Tems and Drake is a stone-cold smash. Certified double platinum just two months after its release, the song gave Future his second #1 single and further put Tems on the map. But will the emotive lyrics of Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5,” which was accented by the cerebral approach of its accompanying visual, tug even more strongly at voters’ hearts?

Gunna’s “Pushin P” f/Future and Young Thug triggered a massive social-media movement, while Harlow’s “Churchill Downs” f/Drake also had a big viral impact. Of course, Jay-Z’s celestial contribution to Khaled’s “GOD DID” could just be the gospel people want to celebrate.

The Best Rap Performance and Best Melodic Rap Performance offer more of the same; Lamar, Khaled, Future, Drake and Harlow dominate both. However, in addition to a Best Rap Performance nod for Gunna, two women also stand out in these two categories. GloRilla (Interscope/CMG), who had her breakout moment on Hitkidd's “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” (Blac Noize!/BMLG) in April, is up for the honor, while Best New Artist nominee Latto (RCA) snagged a Best Melodic Rap Performance nod for “Big Energy (Live),” the remix of her #1 monster hit. It will be interesting to see if the Recording Academy puts its diversity mission center stage by honoring one or both of these women. Either way, they’ll still have to compete against Lamar—no small task.

Top to bottom: Lamar, Pusha T, Latto, Harlow, Future

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