Now it is turn for the rap field which consists of four categories: rap-only performance, rap and sung collaboration and of course the regular songwriters’ and album’s awards.
Determining eligibility in the rap field is quite easy. Basically if you’re rapper, this is where you fit and that could be why the field has never been called “hip-hop”. Many hip-hop singers end up in R&B.
After pop the most commercial and talked-about field is rap and this year’s contenders include some of the biggest names in today’s music like Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. The latter twodominate the field with five nominations each in four categories.
Let’s now take a look at the odds for each of the categories:
Best Rap Performance
- Kendrick Lamar — “Alright”
- Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney — “All Day”
- Drake — “Back to Back”
- Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne — “Truffle Butter”
- J. Cole — “Apparently”
- Fetty Wap — “Trap Queen”
Best rap performance is intended for rapping-only songs as opposed to rap and singing (that’s for best rap/sung performance). It is one of the very few categories this year with six nominees. Despite this, I think we have a clear winner.
Kendrick Lamar is looking forward a back-to-back win in Rap Performance. He won last year for “i”, a track from his Album of the Year (AOTY)-nominated To Pimp A Butterfly. Even if he’s ignored in the general field, he will rule in rap.
Lamar’s closest rival is 21-time GRAMMY recipient Kanye West for “All Day” with rappers Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom alongside 18-time winner Paul McCartney. This entry is a bit awkward since McCartney does not provide any vocals to this track, but neither did Ryan Lewis who won with Macklemore for “Thrift Shop” two years ago. West won this category when it was revived in 2012 and the following year. McCartney could win his first GRAMMY in rap.
The rest of the nominees encompass the radio-friendly portion that is always present in this award. Drake’s diss track (to Meek Mill) “Back to Back” was the first of its kind to be nominated and that was enough. A win would mean the Academy feels it is fine to directly insult other artists. This is Drake’s fifth consecutive appearence in this category. His second nod is for Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” with Lil Wayne. Minaj and Drake were nominated together in 2012 and Drake was also nominated with Lil Wayne in 2013.
J. Cole is nominated for the first time as a solo artist. Young MC and Kendrick Lamar are so far the only solo rappers to have won before.
Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” was the best-selling hip-hop single of the year so it could possibly follow the same fate of many mainstream hip-hop songs, such as Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” or Chris Brown’s “Look at me now”, that have failed to win.
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
- Common and John Legend — “Glory”
- Big Sean featuring Kanye West and John Legend — “One Man Can Change the World”
- Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat — “These Walls”
- Nicky Minaj featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown — “Only”
- Jidenna featuring Roman GianArthur — “Classic Man”
This category is intended for those collaborations by a rapper featuring an artist that usually only sings the chorus of the song. Over the last couple of years, the rules had been changed to include only tracks where the lead artist is the rapper. Yet, it is still difficult to determine who plays here and who doesn’t. This year, Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” appeared in the pop duo/group category just like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” last year. The idea must be not to include crossover hits.
This year’s line-up consists of two socially-charged songs and three others that contain sexual innuendo.
The most probable winner here is John Legend, and most likely for the Oscar-winning song “Glory” with Common. But there’s also Big Sean’s “One Man Can Change the World”, a empowering anthem featuring Legend as well as Kanye West. Kanye has received this award a total of four times.
But don’t rule out Lamar’s funky tune “These Walls”. Lamar was previously nominated in 2014 losing to Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. The featuring artists Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat are first-time nominees.
The other two songs don’t seem to stand a chance. Nicki Minaj is competing for the first time for “Only”. Her collaborators Lil Wayne and Chris Brown had been nominated before while Drake had been a constant nominee for the last five years.
Best Rap Song
- “Alright” — Kendrick Lamar, Kawan Prather, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams (Kendrick Lamar)
- “Glory” — Common, John Legend and Che Smith (John Legend)
- “All Day” — Ernest Brown, Tyler Bryant, Sean Combs, Mike Dean, Rennard East, Noah Goldstein, Malik Yusef Jones, Karim Kharbouch, Allan Kyariga, Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney, Victor Mensah, Charles Njapa, Che Pope, Patrick Reynolds, Allen Ritter, Kanye West, Mario Winans and Cydel Young (Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney)
- “Energy” — Richard Dorfmeister, Drake, Markus Kienzl, M. O’Brien, M. Samuels and Phillip Thomas (Drake)
- “Trap Queen” — Tony Fadd and Fetty Wap (Fetty Wap)
The winners of this category are usually songs with cultural references, political and social messages, or a collaboration among prominent rappers. This year there’s a fair combination of all of the above.
Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” with 10-time winner Pharrell (including one for Rap Song) is the most likely choice. This is mainly because of all the themes and the cultural and religious references present in this song. “Alright” is also up for Song of the Year (SOTY) but that’s not always a winning indicator. Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” lost here in 2011 and Kanye’s “American Boy” was not even nominated. Lamar is also competing twice for Rap Song but that doesn’t count much either. Drake was nominated twice in 2014 and lost.
The other song Lamar penned was alongside Kanye West, Sean Combs, Paul McCartney and fourteen other people could surprise. Kanye West, whose the lead artist for “All Day” have received this songwriters’ award six times, though he’s been losing in the past two years.
But the song that could actually prevent Lamar from winning for a second consecutive year is “Glory”. It is the favourite for Rap/Sung Collaboration as well as for Song for Visual Media. Legend has a previous songwriting award for Best R&B Song for “Shine” in 2011.
Drake had been in this category for the last three years with no success and “Energy” does not seem to be able to overtake the immense support the aforementioned songs have.
Ultimately “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap has the least chances. The only ‘new’ artists to have won here had been Kanye West in 2005 and Macklemore and co. in 2014, and both of them had nominations in the general field.
Best Rap Album
- Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly
- Dr. Dre — Compton
- J. Cole — 2014 Forest Hills Drive
- Drake — If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
- Nicki Minaj — The Pinkprint
The debate on whether Kendrick Lamar will win AOTY is still on, but it is hard to imagine he’d lose Rap Album. Lamar and Missy Elliot are the only artists to have lost this category while they were also running for AOTY, though both of them lost to albums who were also competing for the top prize.
If there’s an upset could be from Dr Dre. Compton is his “final” album and some of the themes are related to that from Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.
The rest stand no chances: J Cole who won the BET Hip Hop Award for Album of the Year is still a GRAMMY outsider; Drake’s album is actually a “mixtape”; and Nicki Minaj is too commercial.
What do you think? Can Kendrick Lamar sweep the rap field?