Best Rap Performance
The nominees: “Be Careful” (Cardi B); “Nice for What” (Drake); “Bubblin'” (Anderson .Paak); “King’s Dead” (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake); “SICKO MODE” (Travis Scott, Drake, Swae Lee, Big Hawk)
As much as I adore Anderson .Paak and his effervescent single, “Bubblin’,” I think it’s safe to say that he will not be taking home a Grammy in this category. With that out of the way, a strong case can be made for any of the remaining four records to take the trophy home.
In the past, this category was split into Rap Solo Performance and Rap Duo/Group Performance. Taking this into account, Drake has lost this category a whopping 10 times. He has never won in this category. So a win for multi-week #1 and Lauryn Hill-sampling “Nice for What” could grant him his first win here. With only 3 wins from 42 nominations, Drake is curiously undervalued by the academy. He’s also nominated in this category for Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE.” That track was also a critically-acclaimed #1 hit and would be an easy way to reward the two biggest rappers of the past year. On the other hand, Cardi is a former nominee in this category for “Bodak Yellow,” but “Be Careful” was a modest hit compared to the monsters that were “SICKO” and “Nice.” She will likely take home at least one award, but I don’t think it will be here. Finally, Grammy-darling Kendrick Lamar is looking for a fourth win in this category. Similar in structure to “SICKO MODE,” rewarding this song would be a great way to reward the massive Black Panther soundtrack, an underrated rapper (Jay Rock), and a trap rapper that never got his proper Grammy due (Future). The Black Panther soundtrack did notch seven nominations including Album of the Year, so maybe the love will translate into wins.
WINNER: “King’s Dead” (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake)
ALT: “SICKO MODE” (Travis Scott, Drake, Swae Lee, Big Hawk)
Best Rap/Sung Performance
The nominees: “Like I Do” (Christina Aguilera, GoldLink); “Pretty Little Fears” (6LACK, J. Cole); “All the Stars” (Kendrick Lamar, SZA); “This Is America” (Childish Gambino); “rockstar” (Post Malone, 21 Savage)
“Like I Do” and “Pretty Little Fears” have no chance of winning this, to be honest. Moving on, the remaining three songs could all take this home. I’m less inclined to predict “rockstar” for the win simply because it feels so old (released Sept. 15, 2017). Post also has scattered support this year. “rockstar” made the cut for Record of the Year, yet his album missed a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Regardless, he’s currently third in my rankings. The final two songs both earned Record and Song of the Year nominations. “All the Stars” garnered four total nominations and an Oscar nomination. SZA unfairly lost all five of her nomination this year, and the Grammys love Kendrick, so this should be the winner. On the other hand, Childish Gambino had a massive cultural moment with “America,” and with nominations for Record and Song as well as Best Music Video he could spoil here.
WINNER: “All the Stars” (Kendrick Lamar & SZA)
ALT: “This Is America” (Childish Gambino)
Best Rap Song
The nominees: “God’s Plan” (Drake); “King’s Dead” (K. Lamar, J. Rock, Future, J. Blake); “Lucky You” (Eminem, Joyner Lucas); “SICKO MODE” (T. Scott, Drake, S. Lee, Big Hawk); “WIN” (Jay Rock);”
I think Drake has this locked up. One of his three Grammys came from this category in 2016 for “Hotline Bling.” Coincidentally, that song also became one of Drake’s signature hits and a pop culture phenomenon. For five out of the last seven years, the same song has won both Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. So, the two biggest spoilers would be “King’s Dead” and “SICKO MODE,” depending on which wins Best Rap Performance.
WINNER: “God’s Plan” (Drake)
ALT: “King’s Dead” (K. Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, J. Blake)
Best Rap Album
The nominees: Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B); Victory Lap (Nipsey Hussle); ASTROWORLD (Travis Scott); Daytona (Pusha T); Swimming (Mac Miller)
I think Victory Lap and Daytona have outside chances, but I’m leaning towards the other three. Don’t underestimate Swimming. The late Mac Miller was a stunning young talent that never got recognized by the Grammys until after his death. This category is Mac’s only nomination and therefore probably the only chance to reward him with a competitive award. Nevertheless, ASTROWORLD and Invasion of Privacy were wildly successful and acclaimed records that could easily sweep this awards ceremony.
WINNER: Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B)
ALT: ASTROWORLD (Travis Scott)