There’s no second place for the Grammys — there can be only one.
That being said, the nominees for Best Rap Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards all bring merit and credibility to the table and have a decent shot at winning. HipHopDX has analyzed the case for each Hip Hop superstar, one of whom will be popping champagne come the night of February 12, 2017.
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book*
Tagline: The Chance To Really Make History
The Grammys made a major move by even allowing Coloring Book to be nominated since it’s technically a mixtape and not commercially available. The project charted on Billboard’s 200 albums chart without any traditional album sales and is arguably the epitome of the modern music industry.
Beyond any of those technicalities, Chance The Rapper brought a fresh sound that swept the nation by storm. He had people smiling, dancing and praising the Lord for their blessings all while being the voice of a generation. — Victoria Hernandez
Drake – VIEWS**
Tagline: How Can You Argue With A Billion Streams?
Still, it’s not even the worst Metacritic score out of the nominees for this year’s award, which was Major Key with 67%. The Life Of Pablo was a 75%, De La scored 77% and Blank Face LP hit 81%. Coloring Book was the critical darling of 2016, nabbing 90% on Metacritic and placements all over DX’s Best Of 2016 lists.
But does critical praise guarantee Grammy victory?
Looking at the winners in the Rap category over the last five years, the majority answer is no. Sure, To Pimp A Butterfly and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy were universally lauded by critics (96% and 94% on Metacritic, respectively), but none of the other three winners cracked 80%. Drake’s Take Care had 78%, Macklemore’s The Heist had 74% and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 only had 72%.
VIEWS may not be considered the “best” album by everyone, but there’s no denying that it was objectively the biggest album of 2016 in Rap, or any other genre you want to put it in. — Chris Mitchell
DJ Khaled – Major Key
Tagline: …Major Key!
DJ Khaled has been an active and vibrant member of the Hip Hop populace for a while now, but it was only within the past year-and-some-change that his celebrity breached the A-list radar.
With his ninth studio album, he was able to finally get a big payoff from recording with his usual suspects (Drake, Nas, Future, etc.), netting him a quartet of Billboard Top 100 hits, and helping him scoop up a Gold plaque for the album. He also championed a pre-4 Your Eyez Only J. Cole months in advance and oversaw an unofficial “Control Pt. II” in “Holy Key.”
Plus his Grammy speech would undoubtedly be an instant meme classic. Do it for the culture. — Trent Clark
Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
Tagline: A Transforming Musical Organism For The Streaming Generation
No one on the list has as many Grammy wins or nominations as Kanye West, and for good reason. Matter of fact, he’s technically featured on three other nominees’ projects for Best Rap Album as well. Many accused The Life Of Pablo of sounding unfinished initially and they were right. Why? Because only the internet generation could produce a streaming-only project being tinkered with (or updated for some) over a period of five months. Some also called the project the ultimate bridge between art and software. As far as the music is concerned, The Life Of Pablo made an actual star out of Desiigner, raised Google searches on bleaching assholes and gave HipHopDX its verse of the year via Chance The Rapper. — Ural Garrett
De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…
Tagline: Out There? Yes. But Haven’t They Always Been?
When De La Soul launched its 2015 Kickstarter campaign, Pos, Dave and Maseo never imagined it would garner over $600,000 to make their ninth studio album, and the Anonymous Nobody…, but sure enough, the money came in. From there, the trio gave the people what they wanted: an 18-track, wild roller-coaster ride of unexpected features and countless sonic risks — similar to the ones they’ve been taking since the group’s highly revered 1988 classic, 3 Feet High and Rising.
From the undeniably funkdafied cut, “Pain,” with Snoop Dogg’s smooth, G’ed-out vocals and the slow, soulful “Drawn” with dream-pop group Little Dragon, to the heavenly abyss of “Exodus” featuring the Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn and infectious nature of “Snoopies” with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, they took leaps that (for the most part) worked. It may take a few spins before the genius of the album is revealed, but once it is, it’s impossible to ignore. — Kyle Eustice
ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
Tagline: Groovy Gangsta Music With A Twist Of Lemon-Lime Funk
If the Grammy Committee is looking to earn street cred and to pay back TDE for the Grammy snub that was further soured by an iMessage, then Blank Face LP is the route they want to speed down. Virtually every song on Q’s last project serves a purpose, whether it was at a vibrant house party (“Big Body” w/ Tha Dogg Pound), a blunt-rolling sesh (“Kno Ya Wrong” w/ Lance SkiiiWalker) or drive-by soundtrack (“Ride Out” w/ Vince Staples). Plus, “THat Part” was literally the coolest Kanye song to drop in 2016. — Trent Clark