Another year, another time to kvetch over the Grammy Award nominations, right?

It may be music’s biggest night, but it’s hard to find a Grammy Awards that’s not fraught with controversy and/or boring as hell. The nomination process always results in head scratching decisions, and this year’s are no different. Katy Perry nominated for Album of the Year? Weird. Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” scratched off of the Record of the Year nominees? Uber-weird. No Lil Wayne nominations? Big Boi passed over in the rap categories? “Hey, Soul Sister” left out of the major categories? Sade shut out of Record and Album of the Year? No nominations for Ke$ha? Well, we probably could have called that last one.

One thing that everyone expected was for Eminem to walk away with the lion’s share of the love, and with ten nominations in this year’s ceremony, he didn’t disappoint. So, the question isn’t really whether Marshall Mathers will win anything on February 13th, but how many awards will he win? While Recovery is far from his strongest work, the fact of the matter is that he took home two awards last year for the stinky Relapse, and Recovery is a damn sight better than that.

Hip-hop generally doesn’t get a lot of shine in the major categories at the Grammys-only two Album of the Year winners can be considered hip-hop derived (although not exactly hip-hop per se), OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The Record and Song of the Year categories almost completely shut hip-hop out of the winner’s circle. So, Eminem’s potential victory could chart new ground in those categories. For now, though, let’s take a look at the straight up hip-hop categories, which are as strong as they’ve been in years:

Category: Best Rap Solo Performance

Nominees: Over/Drake

Not Afraid/Eminem

How Low/Ludacris

I’m Back/T.I.

Power/Kanye West

Should Win: “Not Afraid”-Eminem conducts a rhyming clinic on this song.

Will Win: Eminem-“Not Afraid” was a #1 hit and announced Eminem as being hungry again.

A surprisingly weak category here. The Ludacris and T.I. songs are hardly remembered, meaning that a representative from the South will definitely not be capturing a trophy in this category. Drake delivered a banger, but I think there’s a little too much confusion about whether he’s a rapper or a singer to give him an edge here. This should be a relatively easy win for Eminem here…

…Although…Grammy voters like Kanye almost as much as they like Eminem. Shit, they like Kanye (14 Grammys) MORE than they like Eminem (11 to date). With My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy not eligible until next year (and likely to have been somewhat forgotten by then), this award might end up being Mr. West’s consolation prize.

Category:  Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group

Nominees: Shutterbugg/Big Boi, Bosko, Cutty & Mouche

Fancy/Drake, T.I. & Swizz Beatz

On To The Next One/Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz

My Chick Bad/Ludacris & Nicki Minaj

Lose My Mind/Young Jeezy & Plies

Should Win: Big Boi & Co.-Come on. “Shutterbugg” was one of the dopest records released last year. Big Boi already has a ton of Grammys, but maybe it he wins one on his own, Andre 3000 will get off his ass and actually make a record.

Will Win: Ludacris & Nicki Minaj- “On to the Next One” and “Fancy” were the two biggest songs, but it’s very likely that the two nominations for Swizzy will cancel each other out (unless Alicia Keys gets to the ballots before the accounting firm does). Giving an award to “My Chick Bad” gives a consolation prize to Ludacris but also awards hip-hop’s biggest young talent, Nicki Minaj, who looks to have the inside track on Best New Artist next year…

…Although…it wouldn’t be wise to count out Drake (who could surprise here due to his crossover appeal and non-threatening image) or Jay-Z (because, well…he’s Jay-Z). This could pretty much go any way.

Category: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Nominees: Nothin’ On You/B.o.B & Bruno Mars

Deuces/Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall

Love The Way You Lie/Eminem & Rihanna

Empire State Of Mind/Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

Wake Up Everybody/John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common

Should Win: This is a pretty evenly matched category. Well, 60% of it is. I don’t know anyone who’s not a 15-year old hoodrat who would vote for “Deuces”. Thankfully, there are no 15-year old hoodrats in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. And although John Legend is much beloved by the Grammy folks, his cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody” (on which he was joined by fellow Grammy winners Common and The Roots in addition to newcomer Melanie Fiona) was pretty fuckin’ limp.

Will Win: Eminem & Rihanna. “Love the Way You Lie” was one of 2010’s biggest hits, and it gives Ri-Ri a chance to claim a prize for being a domestic abuse victim (sounds callous, but true) on Grammy night two years ago. Bonus points: she gets to win in a category that also features the perpetrator of said domestic abuse…

…Although…it’s been a while, but does anyone remember how big “Empire State of Mind” was? That song was made to be performed at a Grammy ceremony. Keys and Jay-Z have 20 Grammys between them (13 for Keys, 7 for Hov), but at the end of the day, I think “Empire”‘s age will work to it’s disadvantage.


Category: Best Rap Song

Nominees: Empire State Of Mind/Shawn Carter, Angela Hunte, Alicia Keys, Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic & Alexander Shuckburgh, songwriters (Burt Keyes & Sylvia Robinson, songwriters)

Love The Way You Lie/Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers, songwriters

Not Afraid/M. Burnett, J. Evans, Marshall Mathers, Luis Resto & M. Samuels, songwriters

Nothin’ On You/Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Bobby Simmons Jr.

On To The Next One/Shawn Carter, J. Chaton & K. Dean, songwriters (G. Auge & X. De Rosnay,songwriters)

Should Win: No denying that “Nothin’ on You” is as pure a pop confection as they come.

Will Win: Two Jay-Z nominations will cancel each other out. Two Eminem nominations will (most likely) cancel each other out. Leaving B.o.B. and the multi-nominated Bruno Mars to sweep through this category with Grammy’s most old lady-friendly rap nominee…

…Although…if Eminem picks up a full head of steam, he won’t have to worry about a damn double nomination cancelling him out. By virtue of its’ strong lyrical content, “Love the Way You Lie” could pick this one up.

Category: Best Rap Album

Nominee: The Adventures Of Bobby Ray/B.o.B

Thank Me Later/Drake

Recovery/Eminem

The Blueprint 3/Jay-Z

How I Got Over/The Roots

Should Win: Any time The Roots release an album, they conduct a master class. How nice would it be if a combination of the quality of How I Got Over and their newfound notoriety as Jimmy Fallon’s house band made them a contender in this category and earned them a long-overdue second Grammy award?

Will Win: C’mon. No one’s beating Eminem here. Even though Jay-Z’s album was damn near it’s equal commercially (and was probably a better album qualitatively), each of Eminem’s albums bar one has won in this category. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon…

…Although…Nah, not happening. This is as sure a bet as they come for Grammy 2011.

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