Rap’s Road to the 2016 Grammy Awards Includes Stiff Competition and Shaking Up the Norm
Hip-hop will be represented in a big way when the 58th Annual Grammy Awards take place next Monday night (Feb. 15).
The annual awards show, which will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this year, celebrates musical excellence from the most critically-acclaimed artists, spanning across all genres. But when it comes to rap, the Grammys committee has had its fair share of missteps in the treatment of rappers and the genre as a whole.
However, the committee seems to have taken note of the public's gripes about the lack of hip-hop representation at the awards show in the past and has made an effort to level the playing field. The result: many of rap's elite talent being primed to bring home plenty of hardware. Rap's road to the Grammy Awards includes competition amongst friends (and a few rumored enemies) as well as shaking up the norm. Compared to years' past, rap hasn't seen itself saturating the ceremony like it is now. Kendrick Lamar, who earned seven nominations in 2014 for his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, but left empty-handed, leads all artists with 11 nominations this year. K. Dot has more than a solid chance of walking away as the winner in more than a few categories.
He faces stiff competition in categories such as Album of the Year, which finds his acclaimed LP, To Pimp a Butterfly, battling it out with the likes of Taylor Swift (1989), The Weeknd (Beauty Behind The Madness), Chris Stapleton (Traveller) and Alabama Shakes (Sound & Color). For Song of the Year, the rapper's "Alright" goes head to head with Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again," Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud," Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" and Little Big Town's "Girl Crush."
Kendrick has a puncher's chance at winning AOTY, but it would not be surprising if he struck out when it comes to "Alright" in SOTY. One category that bodes well for him taking home a trophy will ironically be in the Best Rap Song category, where he is nominated as an artist for his song, "Alright," and as a songwriter for his work on Kanye West's "All Day." His main competition is Fetty Wap and his mega-hit, "Trap Queen," which looks like it could stand in the way considering it was a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 2 and spending 25 consecutive weeks in the top 10.
However, if there's one category where Kendrick appears to be the front-runner in it's for Best Music Video, where both his cinematic visual for "Alright," as well as his collaboration with Taylor Swift, "Bad Blood" earned a nom. The clips for A$AP Rocky's "L$D," Pharrell Williams' “Freedom” and The Dead Weather's “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” are also competing against K. Dot.
In terms of competition, there will be little for Wiz Khalifa, as he is a heavy favorite to win all the awards he will be up for on Monday night. Despite not releasing an album in 2015, the Taylor Gang general was very much present throughout the year due to his song, "See You Again," a heartfelt tribute to deceased actor Paul Walker. The track is nominated for Song of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media. Khalifa may run into trouble in his match-up against Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar's "Bad Blood" and Mark Ronson's collaboration with Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk," in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category, but he should run away with wins in the other two categories, unless John Legend and Common's "Glory" have anything to say about it.
A few rap stars that received multiple nominations this year, but could walk away empty-handed are Drake, J. Cole and Nicki Minaj. The Toronto native, who scored a career high-five with his nominations, finds his name in categories such as Best Rap Album for If You're Reading This It's Too Late, Best Rap Song for "Energy," Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for Nicki Minaj's "Only" featuring himself, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown; and Best Rap Performance for his Meek Mill diss "Back to Back" and his collabo with Nicki Minaj on "Truffle Butter." His best shot at adding to his trophy case will be in the latter category, since he's nominated twice.
J. Cole, who earned three Grammy nominations this year, has the luck of breaking through the Grammy threshold in what is looking like one of the most top-heavy years for rap in recent memory. He scores nods for Best Rap Album (2014 Forest Hills Drive), Best Rap Performance ("Apparently") and Best R&B Performance (he's featured on Jeremih's "Planes").
When it comes to The Pinkprint creator Nicki Minaj, she's up for the most Grammys of her career since 2012: three. But will it be a long shot for her to win her first Grammy Award? Hopefully, the head Barb in charge won't have to settle for runner-up status when all is said and done.
Every one of these rappers have a chance to score upsets in their respective categories, but with multiple nominations between the three, yet only one Grammy win to show for them thus far (Drake landed the Best Rap Album Grammy Award for Take Care in 2013), their track record's indicate that the odds haven't exactly been in their favor.
When it comes to the greatest rapper of all-time as far as Grammy Awards wins go, Kanye West reigns supreme -- he's got 21 under his belt. The rapper is in the running for five trophies at the ceremony next week and looks to bounce back from having consecutive years go by without winning a Grammy. There's no question Kanye is hoping it won't be the third year in a row he leaves the show without a golden Gramophone. But will monster single, "All Day," be able to get him a win in the Best Rap Song or Best Rap Performance categories over the murderer's row of can't-miss records? Only time will tell, but nominations for his appearance on Big Sean's "One Man Can Change the World," as well as his production on The Weeknd's Beauty Behind the Madness could mean wins and end Mr. West's Grammy drought.
The big categories that rap fans should keep a special eye on are Best Rap Song, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, all of which are loaded with songs and worthy nominees that helped define the past year in hip-hop. Best Rap Album nominees include J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Dr. Dre's Compton, Drake's If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint.
For Best Rap Performance, Drake's "Back to Back," Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen," J. Cole's "Apparently," Kendrick's "Alright," Nicki's "Truffle Butter" featuring Drizzy and Lil Wayne; and Kanye's "All Day" with Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney go against each other. The Best Rap Song competition highlights Yeezy's "All Day," K. Dot's "Alright," Drake's "Energy," Common and John Legend's "Glory" and Fetty's "Trap Queen."
Lastly, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration is stacked with Big Sean's "One Man Can Change the World" alongside Kanye and Legend; "Glory," Jidenna's "Classic Man" featuring Roman GianArthur, K. Dot's "These Walls" with Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat; and Nicki's "Only." While you could make a case for every song to win, it will be anyone's bet who will emerge as the victor when the names are called to the stage.
While award wins are sure to be both celebratory and controversial, the pressure can be eased with one of the most exciting parts of the 2016 Grammy Awards: the live performances that take place on the biggest stage in music. The show will include a healthy serving of hip-hop, most notably Kendrick Lamar's anticipated performance and even Pitbull will take the stage. Mr. 305 may have gone the pop route these days but he's still a lyrical force and puts on a highly entertaining stage show.
And being that J. Cole might also be in attendance at the ceremony, maybe he and K. Dot will decide to give fans a preview of that rumored album they've been working on by giving a surprise performance. Or he could unveil yet another new song that will wow the world and make rap nerds lose their cool. Taylor Swift could also link up with Kendrick for a little "Bad Blood" and unite the pop and hip-hop crowd for one indelible moment. As for the Weeknd, he'll also be making a prime-time performance, blending his pop sensibilities with his murky vibes for a set that could include one of his many rap buds. Rihanna packs enough star power by herself, but imagine if she were to do her duet with Drake ("Work"), or even up the ante and bring out Kanye West to perform one of their recent collaborations.
The possibilities are endless this year and there's enough talk before the Grammys even start to make this ceremony a must-see event. Thankfully, hip-hop has a huge presence going into the awards, which means the ride out
See Best Rap Performance Nominees & Winners at the Grammys Over the Years