Captain Obvious statement coming in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Dating back to the days of Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff or when Public Enemy posed the question on “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic,” “Who gives a fuck about a g*ddam Grammy?” Hip-Hop and “music’s biggest night” have never had the most kosher of relationships.
This year, the genre’s most anticipated awards were handed out before the telecast. And, putting it lightly, there’s the overwhelming sentiment regarding the lack of connection or desire to tap into the true pulse of the music – despite some of the most memorable performances in recent years centering around rap’s most influential names. Such constitutes as the reason why talents like Killer Mike, Sean Price, Big K.R.I.T. or Freddie Gibbs may never be nominated for a Grammy, which by no means, is a moratorium on an artist’s career (despite Mike already winning one for for OutKast’s “The Whole World”).*
Yet, and here’s the paradoxical twist, for MC’s who are nominated, the desire to walk home with a Grammy is borderline obsessive. Aside from obvious financial implications resulting from the distinction, the competitive edge in a psycho-competitive genre are bragging rights that speak for themselves. This ignites the conversation to the 2014 Best Rap album, specifically two of the category’s expected nominees.
Marinate on this. Since 2008, only three “new” Hip-Hop artists have gone platinum. And by “new,” the qualifications are under the age of 30 and dropping their first label-backed album. That’s Nicki Minaj, Drake and Kendrick. That’s it and that’s all.
From the moment So Far Gone dubbed the Toronto transplant rap’s Andrew Wiggins in 2009, Drake’s reign atop the newer generation of MC’s has gone essentially unchallenged. Names like Wale, Big Sean, KiD CuDi, Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole carved their own niche amongst the masses with their respective sets of catalog-defnining projects. None, however, have come within arms reach of Cash Money’s smartest signing since keeping Lil Wayne away from Jay-Z seven years earlier. And with taunts in the vein of “Most #1’s ever how long did it really take me…” the only true competition Drake encountered was his own boredom and long since-established legends.
Enter good kid, m.a.a.d city.
Where Thank Me Later and Take Care produced a plethora of stadium-worthy mainstays and graphically introspective numbers, Kendrick’s debut manifested its own audio fingerprint. GKMC captured the forecast of a time period. It thrived in describing the hopes, dreams, pitfalls and peer pressures of matriculating in a generation hellbent on appeasing an image of manhood and success based largely around perception. And the LP spawned Kendrick from simply a talented lyricist, to a believable champion. Conceptually and reaction-wise, Hip-Hop has failed to produce a better EP, mixtape or album since GKMC was born on October 22, 2012.
A platinum album is impressive enough given today’s difficulties in pushing units. Showing face at key stages is, in ways, even more so. Keep in mind Kendrick has walked away with MVP honors at each of the summer’s biggest rap-related events in Summer Jam and the BET Awards. Perception being reality is no more truer than in Hip-Hop, and one has to believe Drake recognizes the validity of the statement. The deadline for Grammy nominations is September 30. And at the moment, the likely candidates for the category could resemble this lineup or something of the sort:
Kanye West – Yeezus
Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.a.a.d city
Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
J. Cole/A$AP Rocky/Killer Mike & El-P – Born Sinner/Long.Live.A$AP/Run The Jewels (Realistically, the Grammys probably won’t recognize Mike, but it’s hilarious just picturing him sitting beside someone like Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez anyway.)
A host of various intangibles will decide the final list like Eminem dropping his mythical project, Kanye failing to receive a nomination as seen before, Rick Ross throwing his name into the hat or if the Grammys feel T.I. or Wayne are worthy of a recognition for Trouble Man or I Am Not A Human Being II. With this knowledge, Nothing Was The Same being pushed back to September 17 makes all the sense in the world. It’s the second to last Tuesday before the cutoff date and all but ensures Aubrey is the last (and most recent) marquee name the selection committee will take into consideration. A chess move, indeed.
Calling Drake and Kendrick Lamar rap’s quietest “cold war” would fall far short on accuracy. Kendrick was apart of Drake’s Club Paradise tour and the two have produced a duo of hit records in “Poetic Justice” and A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems.” Strategical sportsmanship is a more applicable term.
Remember how in the fourth quarter of every NBA All Star Game players begin to discard of the happy-go-lucky nature the first three quarters embodied? And their true competitive nature surfaces in hopes of not only winning the game, but MVP honors as well? It’s the no different in rap. By this stage in the calendar, with a Grammy in reach and regardless whether both openly address the topic, the desire is very much so real with incentives to do so present in TDE and OVO.
For Compton’s new favorite son, perhaps a victory represents a full-circle moment and the official coronation of Hip-Hop’s newest child of destiny; a moment an entire coast and its tenants across generations can find pride in given the fact the future of West Coast rap appeared all but toe-tagged not even a decade earlier.
For Drake, a two part accomplishment looms in the balance. Fending off his closest mainstream competition in Kendrick is one obstacle. Meanwhile, potentially upending Nas, Jay-Z and Kanye West in a matter of 12 months for back-to-back Grammys would bring his “On my King James shit, I’m trying to win here again…” prophecy to fruition. With everything at stake, the seeds for Nothing Was The Same being Drake’s most complete project to date have already been planted.
Looking ahead, a shade over six months separate this warm July afternoon from the 2014 Grammys at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. By then, the Super Bowl will be sports’ dominant discussion and the Lakers on the tail end of their annual Grammy road trip with Kobe Bryant riding a repaired Achilles and Dwight Howard perhaps in tow. Or vice versa. Or not, and Dwight decides leaving nearly $30M on the table is worth it to escape Kobe’s “reign of terror.”
Narratives are still left to be written, songs and videos to be released and campaign trails to be blazed. Equally important, K-Dot could still fall “victim”** to Erykah Badu only to reappear in two years to promote his next album Najiramba with a jeans/sweatpants ensemble and fitted dashiki covering the hairdo Martin had when he became Brother Shaquille Sunflower.
Pending that doesn’t transpire, the next 208 days should be fun. Pressure busts pipes. And also creates legends in the process.
* – Remember, the combined Grammys between Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Tupac, Biggie, the O’Jays, Kiss and Sam Cooke is a big, fat goose egg.
** – I say that only with the kindest of intentions. Plenty of men (and women) would love to be her “victim” and pick dandelions while speaking out against the ills of society and raising a child named Trapezoid. Badu’s got it like that.