Before we jump into this, check out our predictions for the rock categories here.
Wanna freak out about something? There’s actually the chance (a slight chance, but a chance nevertheless,) that Grammys in the rap category can be won by someone other than Kanye West or Eminem. These two Midwesterners (with occasional interruptions from Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and T.I.) have more or less owned the rap Grammys for a decade plus. Kanye has 18 trophies and Eminem has 13. Just for the record, Michael Jackson only won 12 Grammys during his lifetime.
Anyway, 2013 marks the opportunity for someone else to get a chance-maybe. While Slim Shady is absent from the proceedings this year, Yeezy is, as usual, omnipresent despite not releasing an album of his own in the eligibility period.
Let’s see who else is nominated:
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE
HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right) | Drake Featuring Lil’ Wayne
N****s In Paris | Jay-Z & Kanye West
Daughters | Nas
Mercy | Kanye West Featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
I Do | Young Jeezy Featuring Jay-Z & André 3000
GRAMMY PICKS: Kanye and Jay-Z are both represented twice in this category, which normally means that their votes will be split and they’ll cancel one another out. I’d say that there’s an outside chance that Drake will earn his first Grammy for a collaboration with his mentor Lil Wayne, but I’d also say that “Paris” was as ubiquitous as could be at the beginning of last year. It’ll be hard to vote against it.
BIG MONEY PICKS: Solid guest appearances from Jay-Z and Andre 3000 aren’t enough to mitigate the presence of Young Jeezy, otherwise I’d go with “I Do” in a cakewalk. If we’re voting based on actual performance vs. songwriting, I guess I’d have to go with The Throne. Neither emcee is at their best lyrically, and the production isn’t much, but man…if that song comes on, are you sitting down? It’s one of those instances in which the whole adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts.
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
Wild Ones | Flo Rida Featuring Sia
No Church In The Wild | Jay-Z & Kanye West Featuring Frank Ocean & The-Dream
Tonight (Best You Ever Had) | John Legend Featuring Ludacris
Cherry Wine | Nas Featuring Amy Winehouse
Talk That Talk | Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z
GRAMMY PICKS: Definitely not Flo-Rida. Do we even consider him a rapper? I guess in the same sense that one would consider PSY a rapper (hey, “Gangnam Style” isn’t nominated for anything.) Each of the other four nominees has a shot. John Legend is a Grammy favorite (and Ludacris has a few trophies of his own,) but I think the smart money’s on either the late Amy Winehouse’s posthumous collaboration with Nas (who may, improbably, win his first Grammy tonight) or Jay and ‘Ye’s much-used (seen a movie trailer lately?) “No Church in the Wild,” which features Grammy front-runner Frank Ocean. This trophy could mark the start of Ocean running the table at this year’s ceremony.
BIG MONEY PICKS: “No Church in the Wild” is a stunning fucking song. As good as “Cherry Wine” is, it wouldn’t even be a contest.
BEST RAP SONG
Daughters | Nasir Jones & Ernest Wilson, songwriters
Lotus Flower Bomb | Olubowale Akintimehin, S. Joseph Dew, Jerrin Howard, Walker Johnson & Miguel Jontel Pimentel, songwriters
Mercy | Sean Anderson, Mike Dean, Tauheed Epps, Willie Hansbro, Malik Yusef Jones, Anthony Khan, Stephen Taft, James Thomas, Terrence Thornton, Herbert Turner & Kanye West, songwriters
The Motto | Dwayne Carter, Aubrey Graham, Noah “40” Shebib & Tyler Williams, songwriters
N****s In Paris | Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis & Kanye West, songwriters (W.A. Donaldson, songwriter)
Young, Wild & Free | Calvin Broadus, Chris Brody Brown, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Peter Hernandez & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters
Man, rap songs have a lot of songwriters.
GRAMMY PICKS: In this case, I’d say it’s highly likely that the two Kanye entries will cancel themselves out. So it’s anyone’s category. Drake & Weezy could potentially pick this up, as could Nas. Shit, “Lotus Flower Bomb” was a pretty big hit. It’s a long shot, but that could win, too. You know what? I’m feeling like Nas could cut through the parity here and take home a couple of well-deserved Grammys.
BIG MONEY PICKS: The only song that actually has a linear lyrical thread, Nas’s “Daughters.” We are awarding songwriters, right? If so, then give the damn award to the song with the best actual lyrics.
BEST RAP ALBUM
Take Care | Drake
Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 | Lupe Fiasco
Life Is Good | Nas
Undun | The Roots
God Forgives, I Don’t | Rick Ross
Based On A T.R.U. Story | 2 Chainz
GRAMMY PICKS: Wow, this is a tough one. Let’s start by removing Lupe and 2 Chainz from the equation. I’m assuming that someone at Def Jam lobbied for the former Tity Boy’s inclusion, and Lupe gets nominated whenever he puts an album out, irregardless of how shitty it is. Rick Ross is commercially successful and (inexplicably) the critics like him, but I’m not feeling a win here, especially when you consider the other three acts nominated. Drake has commercial success on his side (actually, Take Care has outsold the other five nominees combined, pretty much,) but Nas and The Roots are legends. Life is Good was considered by quite a few to be one of the less essential Nas efforts, so The Roots could pull this one out.
BIG MONEY PICKS: I liked, didn’t love, Undun. I’d actually give the award to Nas’s album. You’ve got to give the guy props for maturing fairly gracefully in a young man’s game.
Let’s hit the pop categories next, shall we?