As wild as it maybe to contemplate, Kendrick Lamar — one of the biggest names in hip-hop — has never won the award for Best Hip-Hop at MTV’s Video Music Awards. In fact, exactly half of the wins he does have come from a collaboration that had many of his most hardcore fans questioning whether he’d sold out for just that sort mainstream of mainstream acclaim. In 2015, he shared two of his four wins with wholesome, All-American pop star Taylor Swift for her cinematic “Bad Blood” video: Video Of The Year and Best Collaboration. It also brought the long-simmering rivalry between the blonde pop star and her onetime frenemy Katy Perry to a head, and lent her some street cred besides (Kendrick claims he was unaware of this background).
His two other awards were technical awards, and again, half of those were split with lo-fi producer Flying Lotus for the surreal “Never Catch Me” video (Best Cinematography). The lone individual award he managed to pull down that year was for Best Direction for “Alright,” the bizarre, though inspirational visual from To Pimp A Butterfly that saw him levitating throughout the city of Los Angeles only to be brought plummeting back to Earth by a policeman’s bullet — a profound sight that somehow wasn’t enough to garner a Best Hip-Hop Video award. The winner was Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.”
Kendrick has been given an opportunity to reverse his VMA luck this year with his upcoming performance and nine nominations — which leads all nominees — including Video Of The Year and Best Hip-Hop Video, both for the masterful lead single “Humble” off his record-setting 2017 blockbuster album DAMN. With all due respect for the talented hip-hop field, the win for Best Hip-Hop Video is all but foregone, and the only real challenge in the Video Of The Year Category is DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” (because RIHANNA), but it seemed that way for Kenny before — 2014 Grammy Awards, anyone? In 2017, Kung-Fu Kenny has been given his best chance for redemption for past years when he just came up short. Here is a timeline of Kendrick’s nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards; depending on where you stand, it could also be considered all the times Kendrick Lamar was robbed.