Best Rap Album
Rap music is far and away the biggest genre in music today. Everyone wants to be a consumer and creator of the culture. With the massive influx of new rappers and veterans stepping up their game to keep up with younger artists, the rap categories at this year’s ceremony will be especially competitive.
Right now there are three albums that are all but guaranteed a nomination: the Black Panther Soundtrack, Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B) and Scorpion (Drake). You can read my reviews of those albums here, here, and here. All #1 albums, these three albums defined 2018. The first was the companion album to the highest-film of the year, Black Panther (you can read my review here). The second catapulted Cardi B to the top of the female rap game and made her a force to be reckoned with. Finally, the third added yet another massively successful album to Drake’s catalog and launched three massive #1 singles. The leader of the Black Panther soundtrack, Kendrick Lamar, is a 3-time nominee and 2-time winner in this category. Cardi is already a 2-time Grammy nominee for “Bodak Yellow,” and Drake is a 5-time nominee in this category and winner for his sophomore record, Take Care. I think it’s safe to say that these three albums should score nominations.
The Grammys love to reward veterans in this category so I can see Kamikaze (Eminem) and Tha Carter V (Lil Wayne, read my review here) taking the fourth and fifth slots. Eminem has the most wins ever in this category (6), and Kamikaze was a triumphant comeback after the lackluster and poorly-received Revival (read my review here.) Lil Wayne also has an admirable comeback story with Tha Carter V; it also helps that the legend only has one win in this category from two nominations. If there is a tie in the nominating process and a sixth album is nominated, I think ASTROWORLD (Travis Scott, read my review here) will be the album that gets it. The album was critically acclaimed and scored Scott the most success he has seen in his career thus far. Other albums with outside chances include: ? (XXXTentacion), Queen (Nicki Minaj, read my review here), KOD (J. Cole), Ye (Kanye West), Room 25 (Noname), Swimming (Mac Miller), Care For Me (Saba), Kids See Ghosts (Kids See Ghosts, read my review here), and Daytona (Pusha T).
Final Predictions: Black Panther soundtrack (Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, SZA), Scorpion (Drake), ASTROWORLD (Travis Scott), Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B), Tha Carter V (Lil Wayne), Kamikaze (Eminem)
ALT: ? (XXXTentacion) OR Queen (Nicki Minaj)
Best Rap Song
This category is kind of a mess. So many artists had at least 2-3 major hits each that the submissions are disappointing yet understandable. There is one clear frontrunner: “God’s Plan” (Drake). Easily the defining hit of the year, it would be a crime if this song did not pick up a nomination. The other two songs with strong chances for nominations are “APESH*T” (The Carters) and “SICKO MODE” (Travis Scott). The Carters, Beyoncé & Jay-Z, have a combined 138 nominations and 43 wins; simply put, wherever you see their names, it is easier to predict a nomination/win than not. “SICKO MODE” is also a highly acclaimed mega-hit that should easily score a nomination. I would also call “Be Careful” (Cardi B) and “This Is America” (Childish Gambino) sure bets.
Two artists whose names should be sure bets are on shaky ground: Kendrick Lamar and Eminem. Kendrick has four songs vying for a nomination here, the strongest of which is “King’s Dead.” Despite the inclusion of Kendrick, James Blake, Future, and Jay Rock, this record might feel to “small” to warrant a nomination. There’s also “Lucky You” (Eminem, Joyner Lucas) which has a strong shot, but the song tumbled down the charts after its lofty debut week and that might hurt its chances. Other songs with strong chances include “Barbie Dreams” (Nicki Minaj), “SAD!” (XXXTentacion), “Lucid Dreams” (Juice WRLD), “Stir Fry” (Migos), “Stay Woke” (Meek Mill, Miguel), “Django Jane” (Janelle Monáe) and “Mona Lisa” (Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne).
Final Predictions: “This Is America” (Childish Gambino), “APESH*T” (The Carters), “God’s Plan” (Drake), “SICKO MODE” (Travis Scott), “Be Careful” (Cardi B),
ALT: “rockstar” (Post Malone, 21 Savage) OR “Lucid Dreams” (Juice WRLD)
Best Rap Performance
Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance often overlap. Nevertheless, some songs are not submitted in the former category but are submitted in the latter. So, here are a few songs that are worth looking out for. “Killshot” (Eminem), “Nice For What” (Drake), “Chun-Li” (Nicki Minaj), “Big Bank” (YG, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj), “If You Know You Know” (Pusha T), “Yikes” (Kanye West).
Final Predictions: “Killshot” (Eminem), “APESH*T” (The Carters), “Nice For What” (Drake), “SICKO MODE” (Travis Scott), “Chun-Li” (Nicki Minaj)
ALT: “Mona Lisa” (Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar) OR “Big Bank” (YG, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj)
Best Rap/Sung Performance
First: an explanation. Best Rap/Sung Performance is awarded to either solo or collaborative records on which there is both rapping and singing. With the recent trajectory of music, the parameters of this category are becoming increasingly more difficult to define. Drake’s win in this category in 2017 for “Hotline Bling” sparked controversy because there is no rapping on the track at all. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt to predict this monster of a category.
There are three locks here: “In My Feelings” (Drake), “I Like It” (Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin), and “All the Stars” (Kendrick Lamar, SZA). The first two songs are #1 smashes and the latter is a top single from Black Panther that served as the end-credits song and is currently receiving Oscar buzz. “This Is America” (Childish Gambino) is also a lock, in my opinion. That leaves one more slot and I’m inclined to give it to either “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” (Travis Scott) or “Lucid Dreams” (Juice WRLD). Highly acclaimed album tracks like the former have shown up in this category before, and the latter was a massively-successful debut single. Other nominees with strong chances include “All Mine” (Kanye West), “rockstar” (Post Malone, 21 Savage), “SAD!” (XXXTentacion), “BOSS” (The Carters), “Reborn” (Kids See Ghosts) and “Kevin’s Heart” (J. Cole).
Final Predictions: “In My Feelings” (Drake), “I Like It” (Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin), “All the Stars” (Kendrick Lamar, SZA), “This Is America” (Childish Gambino), “Lucid Dreams” (Juice WRLD)
ALT: “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” (Travis Scott) OR “rockstar” (Post Malone, 21 Savage)