The Grammys are ostensibly about honoring quality, but we can see by just a cursory glance at their nominees every year that voters tend to make their decisions based not just on acclaim, but also popularity, media saturation, and cultural impact (2017 Album of the Year contender Justin Bieber wasn’t exactly a critics’ darling). What’s interesting in the race for the 2018 Grammys is just how many albums that fit that bill this year are by rap artists. That could mean a historic year for the genre in the race for Album of the Year.
When you consider best-selling, chart-topping albums from this Grammy eligibility period (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017), the first name that comes to mind may be Kendrick Lamar, whose fourth album “Damn” is still the highest rated of 2017 on MetaCritic (95 out of 100). It also topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Then there’s Drake, who earned an Album of the Year nomination just last year for “Views,” a bestseller than managed to break through despite somewhat mixed reviews. This year Drake dropped “More Life,” which set streaming records in its first week and received markedly better critical notices (79 out of 100 on MetaCritic).
Jay-Z is hip-hop royalty and has won 21 Grammys, but he’s never been up for Album of the Year. That could change thanks to “4:44,” his acclaimed, chart-topping response to his wife Beyonce‘s album “Lemonade.” But that’s not all. Other rappers could figure in this year’s race including veterans A Tribe Called Quest for their sixth and final album “We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service,” which would also serve as posthumous recognition for deceased band member Phife Dawg. Logic’s “Everybody” could make the cut on the strength of conscientious songs like “1-800-273-8255.” And DJ Khaled could power through with “Grateful” on the strength of popular hits like “I’m the One” and “Wild Thoughts.”
However, the Grammys have long been known to be biased against rap and hip-hop. Only one rap album has ever won the top prize (“Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast, 2004), and only one other album that could be considered hip-hop has prevailed (“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill, which was categorized as R&B in 1999).
It’s common enough for one rap album to be nominated for Album of the Year, somewhat rare for two to get in, and unprecedented for three to make the cut. In addition to voters’ musically conservative streak in the general field, this could be attributed to the nominations review committees, which are smaller voting bodies that take the academy-wide voting results and select the final nominees. In doing so, they have tended to spread the wealth across genres, with rarely more than two or three contenders from any single field like pop, R&B, country, or rock. Under these circumstances, you could conceivably see albums snubbed when they might have gotten in any other year, strictly because there are one or two rap albums the review committee happens to like more.
Do you think rap will dominate the Grammys this year, or will only one or two albums get their foot in the door?
Be sure to make your Grammy nomination predictions so that Hollywood record executives and top name stars can see how their songs and albums are faring in our Grammy odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on November 28. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Grammys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our music forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.