Drake is the only rap artist who contends for Album of the Year this year, for his chart-topping “Views,” which gives him a strong advantage to win Best Rap Album after winning it once before for “Take Care” (2012). Since this category was created in 1995, whenever rap has competed for Album of the Year, it has won Best Rap Album every single time. The only Album of the Year nominees to lose this category were bested by other top-category contenders: Nelly‘s “Nellyville” lost to Eminem‘s “The Eminem Show” in 2002, and Kendrick Lamar‘s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” lost to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis‘s “The Heist” in 2013.
In all, 12 Album of the Year nominees have prevailed as Best Rap Album:
1996: “The Score,” The Fugees
2000: “The Marshall Mathers LP,” Eminem
2001: “Stankonia,” OutKast
2002: “The Eminem Show,” Eminem
2003: “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” OutKast
2004: “The College Dropout,” Kanye West
2005: “Late Registration,” Kanye West
2007: “Graduation,” Kanye West
2008: “Tha Carter III,” Lil Wayne
2010: “Recovery,” Eminem
2013: “The Heist,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
2015: “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar
Can anyone buck this trend and pull off an upset? Perhaps it could be Kanye West, who is nominated for the seventh time for “The Life of Pablo.” He’s tied with Jay-Z as the 10th most awarded artist in Grammy history, and he has won this category four times: the three victories noted above, as well as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2011.
But the last time West was nominated (“Yeezus,” 2013) he lost to aforementioned Album of the Year contenders Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. What’s more, West’s often erratic behavior — abruptly ending concerts, meeting with Donald Trump — could be a turn-off to voters. Indeed, West hasn’t won in any category since 2012.
If an upset comes, it might be from a newcomer instead of a veteran. Chance the Rapper is nominated for his online mixtape “Coloring Book.” He’s nominated seven times overall this year, including Best New Artist, and his abundant critical acclaim might make him a standout against Drake, whose “Views” wasn’t as unanimously praised.
Chance isn’t the only newcomer to this category. DJ Khaled (“Major Key”) is nominated for the very first time in this race even though this is his ninth studio album; this is his only nomination this year. Also with just one nomination is veteran hip hop group De La Soul (“And the Anonymous Nobody”); this is their first nomination in this category as well, but they did previously win a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration for “Feel Good Inc.” with Gorillaz in 2005.
Rounding out the category is Schoolboy Q for “Blank Face LP,” which is his second nom in this category following “Oxymoron” in 2014. He has one other nomination this year: Best Rap Performance for “That Part” featuring Kanye West.
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