Hip-hop has had quite a season. With album drops from big names like Drake, Kanye West, and J. Cole and the continued success of 2020 breakout Megan Thee Stallion, all of the recent excitement could be reflected early December, when Grammy nominations are due. Will we get a sweep as we have in years past from artists like West and Kendrick Lamar? Let’s dive in.
The biggest story in hip-hop this year has been the feud between West and Drake, and the back-to-back releases of their albums “Donda” and “Certified Lover Boy,” respectively. Those two will likely get rap nominations. While we’ll have to guess about their submissions for now, it’s likely that Drake goes with “Wants and Needs” and “Way 2 Sexy,” with the first being his biggest eligible hit and the latter being the lead single from “Lover Boy.” If the former competes in Rap Performance and the latter in Melodic Rap Performance, Drake could easily get nominations across the field.
Likewise, West will probably submit something off of “Donda” to each category, with “Hurricane,” “Jail,” and “Off the Grid” emerging as the biggest songs from the project and the likeliest ones that will be submitted. As to which of the two legendary rappers will win Best Rap Album … we’ll have to see. Drake’s album might have had a bigger first week commercially, but West is not that far behind, and has a stronger Grammy track record with 22 wins over the course of his career.
And speaking of Grammy history, Kendrick Lamar is back in the race this year with his Baby Keem collaboration, “Family Ties.” The track became an instant hit, and is sure to get nominations given how much rap voters adore Lamar. Could the song win? That’s not locked by any means, but given how impressive his track record is in the field, I wouldn’t discount the possibility.
But what about “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion? It was released in August 2020, which made it eligible for the 2021 awards, but Cardi B decided to save it for the current awards cycle. However, as of this writing “WAP” has not been part of any album released during this eligibility period (September 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021). As such, the track might not be eligible; Grammy rules state that a song has to be released in the eligibility period, or be part of an album released in the eligibility period, or be released as a single during the eligibility period — “WAP” does not meet any of these requirements.
But Megan Thee Stallion can still be compete with one of her other hits from the past year, “Thot Shit” or “Body” being the most likely. The rapper is also a safe bet for Best Rap Album for “Good News.” And Cardi B could still compete with “Up” for Best Rap Performance and Song.
On the topic of female rappers, there’s more competition than just Cardi and Megan. Bia and Nicki Minaj might get one or two rap noms with their hit “Whole Lotta Money.” Minaj is a previous rap nominee, and voters might want to award a new talent like Bia (unless Minaj’s recent anti-vaccination controversy costs her support). Likewise, another female MC eligible is Doja Cat with her viral hit “Ain’t Shit.” The track is a powerful anthem for women and could earn a nomination for Best Melodic Rap Performance and even Best Rap Song. Finally, Saweetie could earn a nomination for her top-20 hit “Best Friend,” which features Doja.
Some rappers are looking for a repeat in Best Rap Album after previous wins. Tyler, the Creator is back on the race with his acclaimed “Call Me If You Get Lost,” and could also earn nominations for his hit “WusYaName” with Ty Dolla $ign and Youngboy Never Broke Again. Likewise, reigning Rap Album winner Nas is back with “King’s Disease II,” which could also earn a nomination for the buzzy song “Nobody” along with former Grammy darling Lauryn Hill. And while he didn’t win last time he got in, J. Cole could score his first Rap Album win with “The Off Season,” or perhaps repeat in Best Rap Song with “My Life” with Morray and 21 Savage, or “Amari.”
Big hits will also be very popular in the rap field this year. Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s “Industry Baby” and Polo G’s “Rapstar” should both be front-runners for Melodic Rap Performance and Rap Song. Lil Tjay and 6LACK’s “Calling My Phone” could score a nom after a strong chart performance. Other hits that could earn noms include Moneybagg Yo’s “Wockesha,” Pop Smoke’s “What You Know About Love?” and Roddy Ricch’s “Late At Night.”
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