Words By Jameel Raeburn
In hip-hop, the awards don’t matter. It’s all about speaking to the people (maybe even to the streets) and being culturally and socially relevant in doing so.
At least that’s what the hip-hop bravado will tell you. Awards shouldn’t matter when creating great music, but ever since every viral sensation became qualified to become a Top 10 hit, there’s no better quantitative scale of impact than awards. At the top, above the heap of Moonmen and whatever those pointed things are that the American Music Awards give out is the Grammy.
While the Grammys may be the pinnacle of music success, they’ve rarely gotten it right in the hip-hop category, unfortunately. Winners tend to be chosen by popularity rather than quality and relevance in associated within the genre. Can someone explain why in the last six years Eminem has won three Best Rap Album awards despite never topping an Album of the Year list voted by people who review music?
Hip-hop fans are always up for a discussion, and the Grammy award nominations are the perfect catalyst to either ignite a debate. But with the 2016 Grammy Awards in three months and the nominations announcement less than two weeks away (December 7), here are the realities that we as hip-hop fans might have to accept.
The Best Rap Album Category Is Anyone’s Race
Considering there were months on end in 2014 without a major hip-hop album in sight, 2015 was a godsend in both quantity and quality of releases, which makes the conversation for Best Rap Album much more interesting. This year’s (2015) Best Rap Album category featured an exciting group of underdogs with Iggy Azalea (The New Classic), Childish Gambino (Because the Internet) and ScHoolboy Q (Oxymoron) picking up nods. Unsurprisingly, however, they were trounced by Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 because it’s Eminem. This year? Not nearly as predictable.
Every hip-hop album released between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015 are eligible to be submitted for nomination. If there are any inevitable picks out of the bunch, they are J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Drake’s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, but the rest of the category is wide open. Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint, A$AP Rocky’s At.Long.Last.A$AP, Dr. Dre’s Compton, Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise and Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut could also easily slide into contention.
But what about the dark horses? Run the Jewels’ Run the Jewels 2 has garnered enough critical acclaim to earn a spot on the list, and Lupe Fiasco, a former Grammy-award winner who has been nominated in this category for all four of his LPs, could somehow enter the conversation with Testuo and Youth. Future’s solo album DS2 may be a hit with the hip-hop conglomerate, but his joint album he snuck in before the deadline with Drake, What a Time to Be Alive, may be the stronger choice. It’s anyone’s race to be nominated, and someone’s bound to get snubbed.