Winning Best Rap Album is an accomplishment exclusive to greats of the genre. Eminem leads the category with six wins, but megastars like Kanye West, Jay Z, OutKast, Lil Wayne and recently Kendrick Lamar fill out much of the category’s history. This year will be no different as hip hop’s biggest names compete for the 2017 title. Whether the winner is a new breakout name or a towering legend, this year’s champion will blend in with the existing roster of superstars.
So let’s first consider the two strongest candidates according to our racetrack odds: Drake (“Views”) and Chance the Rapper (“Coloring Book”). They’re facing off against West (“The Life of Pablo”), De La Soul (“And the Anonymous Nobody”), Schoolboy Q (“Blank Face LP”) and DJ Khaled (“Major Key”).
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CHANCE THE RAPPER, “COLORING BOOK”
WHY HE’LL WIN: He is the genre’s biggest breakout star in years
Chance the Rapper had a great 2016, having positioned himself as rap’s next superstar. His third mixtape has helped continue the comparisons to early Kanye West. Many listeners think “Coloring Book” bears similarities to West’s debut “The College Dropout,” and the commonalities might go beyond the albums’ lyrical and sonic elements. Back in 2005 Kanye took home Best Rap Album for that first LP, triumphing via critical adoration and promise over Nelly’s untouchable pop success and Jay Z’s stunning legacy. This could mean big things for Chance the Rapper, when going against a commercial juggernaut (Drake) and a huge Grammy legacy (West).
WHY HE WON’T WIN: His name doesn’t pack quite the same punch as his competitors
While there is no doubting the promise of Chance’s career, the category is stacked with veterans whose entire careers may seem more worthy of a Grammy than Chance’s very first album. From industry moguls (DJ Khaled) and innovative disruptors (Kanye West) to multi-hyphenates (Drake) and flat-out legends (De La Soul), this year’s roundup of Best Rap Album nominees represents some of the strongest brand names in hip-hop. Chance the Rapper might need to put in some more time before he is named a Grammy winner.
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WHY HE’LL WIN: “Views” is the most popular nominee
Like previous wins in this category by Eminem, Kanye West and even Drake’s own “Take Care,” the king of Toronto could win this year by the numbers. With over 1.5 million albums sold and a record amount of streams, Drake’s album is by far the most popular nominee. Big names win big in this category, considering Eminem and Kanye have won 10 of the 17 Rap Album trophies this millennium – the other seven split between megastars like Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, and OutKast. The cherry on top is that Drake is the only rap artist nominated for Album of the Year, which to date has always resulted in a Best Rap Album victory.
WHY HE WON’T WIN: Sales were huge, but the reviews were tepid
“Views” highlights Drake’s incredible commercial star-power, but it also happens to coincide with a noted decline in critical acclaim. By a significant margin, “Views” marked Drake’s lowest MetaCritic score to date (69) and ranks fifth out of this year’s six nominees on the reviewer aggregate site. Such well-received albums by Chance the Rapper and Schoolboy Q might distract from Drake’s more lightweight, albeit popular, choice. But if he does pull out a win, it could be an awkward TV moment, as Drake has announced he is boycotting the ceremony.
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