When the Grammys introduced the Best Rap Album category in 1995, it started off on the wrong foot by awarding Naughty By Nature‘s “Poverty’s Paradise” instead of Tupac Shakur‘s “Me Against The World” and I am pretty sure Sean “Puffy” Combs would agree with me that his friend The Notorious B.I.G.‘s “Life After Death” should have won instead of his debut album “No Way Out” in 1997. Otherwise the winners have not been that debatable.
Eleven times in this category’s 18-year history an Album of the Year nominee has won Best Rap Album. Unlike other genre album categories, an Album of the Year nominee has yet to lose in the Best Rap Album category.
This is the third time there have been two rap works nominated for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album in the same year: Kendrick Lamar‘s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “The Heist.” The other times were Eminem‘s “The Eminem Show” and Nelly‘s “Nellyville” in 2002 and Outkast‘s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” and Missy Elliott’s “Under Construction” in 2003.
This year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lamar have seven nominations each and go head-to-head in five of those races. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have the advantage over Lamar by having a more commercially successful year. Their songs “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” ranked number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Thrift Shop” was also named Billboard’s top song of 2013. The duo has also achieved awards success by claiming three MTV Video Music Awards and two American Music Awards this year.
Lamar is hip-hop’s Next Big Thing. He was named MTV’s “Hottest MC in the Game” by MTV’s Hip Hop Brain Trust. His disadvantage is that his debut album was released in October of 2012 and his songs were not as commercially successful as those of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Win or lose we will be discussing Lamar in the Grammy rap field for years to come.
There is a third serious contender this year: Kanye West‘s album “Yeezus.” Kanye is the biggest winner of this category with four and he ranks as the rapper with the most total Grammys: 21. All of his wins were in the rap field except one — co-writing Alicia Keys‘ “You Don’t Know My Name,” which won Best R&B Song.
You cannot find a music critics’ Best of 2013 list without “Yeezus” ranked on it. “Yeezus” was named number-one album of the year by Time Magazine and number two by Rolling Stone. Kanye’s “Yeezus” even received praise from non-hip-hop artists, including the late Lou Reed, Trent Reznor, Noel Gallagher and Keith Urban.
Drake returns to this category after winning in 2012 for “Take Care.” If he prevails, it would be the fourth time an artist won back-to-back awards in this category. Eminem did this twice by winning Best Rap Album “The Slim Shady LP” in 1999 & “The Marshall Mathers LP” in 2000 and in “Relapse” in 2009 & “Recovery” in 2010. West did it with “The College Dropout” in 2004 & “Late Registration” in 2005.
Jay-Z leads all artists with nine nominations. He has a total of 17 Grammy wins. This is Jay Z’s tenth time nominated for Best Rap Album, but he only won once (“Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life”).
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a safe bet, but I am going on a limb and predicting West’s “Yeezus” to win.
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