Who is Set to Win Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammy Awards?
With the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards around the corner, we take a look at the contenders for Best Rap Album.
Though the Grammy Awards were established in 1958, it wasn’t until 1995 that the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album was introduced and first awarded to Naughty by Nature at the 38th Grammy Awards. Eminem, who has six Grammy Awards in this category, has received the most awards, followed by Kanye West with four. As no surprise to most, Kanye will not be able to get closer to Eminem's record with his gospel-driven Jesus Is King. This year’s list is dominated by first time nominees with only Tyler, The Creator (Igor) and J. Cole from Dreamville (Revenge of the Dreamers III) being previously featured in this category. However, T.I, a featured artist on Revenge of the Dreamers III, has been consecutively nominated from 2006 to 2008. Though the Grammys haven’t always accurately depicted the landscape of hip-hop at the time, we breakdown each nominee for Best Rap Album and what a win might mean for them.
DREAMVILLE – REVENGE OF THE DREAMERS III
The third installment of Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers was recorded over 10 days at the Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta. With 343 artists invited and 142 songs reportedly recorded, the final product includes 18 songs featuring 35 artists and 27 producers. While the album stands as the most collaborative album in hip-hop history to top the charts, Revenge of the Dreamers III is a mixed bag of fantastic and forgettable tracks. Anything other than “Under The Sun”, “Down Bad”, “LamboTruck”, “Wells Fargo”, “MIDDLE CHILD”, and “Sacrifices” can be ignored, and while it would be an iconic moment to see all the collaborators on stage to accept the award, it’s doubtful ROTD3 will take the cake. However, if Dreamville does win, they will be the first group to do so since the Fugees in 1997. This nomination is the first for all but three of the artists on the project; DaBaby has been nominated for 2 others this year (including Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for Suge in addition to being a feature of ROTD3's "Under The Sun), J. Cole has been nominated for 11, and T.I has been nominated for 19 and won 3. Though J. Cole may not get the win for this nomination, it’s likely that he’ll walk away with at least one Grammy from his other nominations, including Best Rap Performance for “MIDDLE CHILD” and “Down Bad”, Best Rap/Sung Performance for “The London” featuring Young Thug and Travis Scott, and Best Rap Song for his guest verse on “A Lot” by 21 Savage.
MEEK MILL — CHAMPIONSHIPS
The oldest album on this roster, Meek Mill’s fourth studio album, Championships, marks a new era for the Philadelphia rapper. After spending roughly eight months in jail for violating his parole, Meek Mill experienced his homecoming as Philadelphia welcomed him back at a 76ers basketball game and as Championships debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. This is Mill’s first Grammy nomination and he deserves it at this stage of his career more than ever. Meek Mill raps with the same vehemence as before, but only now he comes back with a new purpose of activism. Compared to the other albums on this list, Meek Mill’s Championships was not a huge moment in hip-hop. Meek Mill’s judicial case, his freedom and the first single “Going Bad” featuring Drake were definitely big moments in the scene, but the album itself didn’t shine as bright or offer the same calibre as the other contenders for Best Rap Album. Meek Mill winning a Grammy on his first nomination after the struggles that he’s experienced in the past few years would fit the triumphant theme of Championships perfectly. However, it doesn’t seem likely.
21 SAVAGE — I AM > I WAS
I Am > I Was marks 21 Savage's fourth nomination and could provide him with his first Grammy win. Two months after the album's release in the last few weeks of 2018, 21 Savage was revealed, after being arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to be a UK citizen whose visa expired in 2006. On I Am > I Was, he sheds light to a more serious side of the popular themes of gang culture such as PTSD on “asmr”. On tracks like these and “a lot” featuring J. Cole, 21 showcases more originality than his other Atlantic counterparts. The album is fairly eclectic, as its sounds bounce between weird, manically comedic, bluntly depictive and dark throughout its 15 tracks, but 21 seems to run through these themes with great ease. The features from Post Malone, Lil Baby, Gunna, Schoolboy Q and others draw in a pop appeal that give the album an enticing sound. However, it’s 21’s developed character and overall musical improvement that keeps the listener amused. I Am > I Was was a bold statement by 21 Savage that seemingly proved to be true. While it’s been picked as a top contender by many and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the UK-born, Atlanta-raised star on stage accepting the award, there’s doubt that 21 Savage will be the one to go home with the award.
TYLER, THE CREATOR — IGOR
Tyler, The Creator’s fifth studio album IGOR plunges the artist’s discography deeper into the undefinable territories that Tyler had been developing in the past few years. Being his most successful project to date, IGOR debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. This is the Odd Future leader’s second nomination in this category; however, this year’s nomination has become the target of discussion with the debate over whether IGOR fits the category description guide. According to Grammys, the criteria for the Best Rap Album states that the albums must contain “at least 51% playing time of tracks with newly recorded rapped performances.” Based on analytics from Hip-Hop By The Numbers, Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR features only 41.5% of Tyler’s rapped vocals. IGOR combined the themes and lyrical content of Flower Boy with similarly daring production to that of Cherry Bomb. IGOR is one of the highest-rated albums at Eject and while it has a high potential to win the Best Rap Album, fans can’t help but still feel snubbed. In recent years, Tyler has campaigned to be seen more than just a hip-hop artist, through his expanding discography, directing his music videos and success in fashion with his Golfwang label. While the hip-hop community recognises him to be a creative individual who can dive into different endeavours with ease, this nomination comes as a setback to his hard work to stretch outside of hip hop's boundaries. IGOR hasn’t only been people’s top hip-hop album of 2019 but instead been named as one of the best projects of the year, regardless of genre. Tyler, The Creator is a top contender for this category and likely to go home with the Grammy award for Best Rap Album.
YBN CORDAE — THE LOST BOY
In 2019, YBN Cordae was named as an XXL Freshman and went from being unfamiliar to the face of the YBN collective. Heading into 2020, Cordae’s debut album The Lost Boy is nominated for Best Rap Album and his single “Bad Idea” featuring Chance The Rapper is nominated for Best Rap Song. While The Lost Boy sees Cordae occasionally being drowned in his influences, never does the spotlight come off him despite the impressive guest list of Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill and more. Cordae’s debut effort appeals to two different eras of hip-hop as he exercises his skills for lyrics, flow and cadence. While “Bad Idea” is not an out-there nomination for Best Rap Song, it does seem to ignore the success and charm behind “RNP” featuring Anderson .Paak and the production of J. Cole. If YBN Cordae is awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, he will become the youngest winner of the award and will join a limited list of artists to win with their debut album alongside Puff Daddy in 1998, Kanye West in 2005, Macklemore in 2014 and Cardi B in 2019. As Cordae being someone destined for longevity, this nomination alone is a fruitful finish to his rookie year. Seeing him walk away from the 62nd Grammy Awards empty-handed could hopefully lead him to release a Grammy-winning sophomore album with his voice and sound more established. That being said, YBN Cordae still stands a strong chance to become the youngest winner of Best Rap Album, and shouldn’t be counted out.
A mention of the snubs for the 62nd Grammy Award of Best Rap Album:
Rapsody – Eve: Last year saw the female side of the scene dominate and Rapsody was a large contributor to this with her third studio album.
JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs: While JPEGMAFIA’s third studio album is considered less abrasive than Veteran, All My Heroes Are Cornballs is an enjoyably chaotic and experimental project.
Freddie Gibbs – Bandana: The Madlib and Freddie Gibbs sequel to their 2014 Piñata and while many would argue it could never be topped, most would agree Bandana was a sufficient and excellent predecessor.
slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain: The nomination of the UK rookie would have placed him in a similar list with Cordae and additionally, would’ve made him the first UK artist to be nominated, depending on if you count 21 Savage. If there was any UK artist to throw into the mix this year, slowthai has to be in the discussion.
EARTHGANG – Mirrorland: Arguably the better Dreamville album this year, Mirrorland saw the Atlantic duo at their eccentric best.
Last year was another monumental year for hip-hop and no matter who wins the Best Rap Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards, history will be made nevertheless. The main contest is likely between Tyler, The Creator and 21 Savage, although, it wouldn’t be the Grammy Awards without surprising winners. Thankfully this year, all the artists nominated are deserving of the accolade.