The Grammy nominations have been announced. Now it’s time to dig in (early) and predict who wins within the urban categories – aka R&B and rap. Names to remember – Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Eminem. There are others, but wouldn’t many agree the three heavyweight vets have a great chance of being victorious?
Best R&B Performance:
“Drunk In Love,” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z (Beyoncé)*
“New Flame,” Chris Brown featuring Usher & Rick Ross (X)
“It’s Your World,” Jennifer Hudson featuring R. Kelly (JHUD)
“Like This,” Ledisi (The Truth)
“Good Kisser,” Usher
As puzzling as some of the R&B category has been over the past couple of years, the R&B performance category is solid. It’s a bit bothersome that August Alsina, Luke James, and Prince (no love for “Breakdown”) were omitted from this category, but overall, there’s nothing objectionable in the least. Despite the soundness of all five performances, Beyoncé and Jay-Z come out on top.
Best Traditional R&B Performance:
“As,” Marsha Ambrosius & Anthony Hamilton (The Best Man Holiday – Soundtrack)
“I.R.S.,” Angie Fisher
“Jesus Children,” Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Lalah Hathaway & Malcolm Jamal Warner (Black Radio 2)*
“Hold Up Wait A Minute (Woo Woo),” Antonique Smith
Best traditional R&B performance is always a less familiar, less ‘commercial’ category, hence the inclusion of two unknowns (no disrespect) in Angie Fisher and Antonique Smith. The most ‘familiar’ performance comes by way of Kem’s “Nobody” from Promise To Love. Still, take a listen to Angie Fisher’s “I.R.S.” and you’ll be instantly captivated… INSTANTLY! Antonique Smith’s got some ferociousness about her too. Toss up…
Best R&B Song:
“Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z)*
“Good Kisser” (Usher)
“New Flame (Chris Brown)
“Options (Wolfjames Version)” (Luke James)
“The Worst” (Jhené Aiko)
Another sound category, but like R&B Performance, Beyoncé and Jay-Z will win. Arguably, “Options” or “The Worst” are stronger ‘songs.’ Still, with “Drunk In Love” missing out in the big categories, the atonement comes from sweeping in the R&B field.
Sail Out, Jhené Aiko
X, Chris Brown
Mali Is…, Mali Music
Girl, Pharrell Williams
The worst thing that could happen for Pharrell Williams did – Beyoncé was nominated in the same category. These are fine choices for Urban Contemporary Album, though it would’ve been nice to have thrown August Alsina’s Testimony into the mix. Still, getting Mali Music’s underrated yet excellent Mali Is in there is superb. But we all know that despite how stacked this category is, there is one heavyweight champion, and her name is Mrs. Carter.
Best R&B Album:
Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc
Love, Marriage & Divorce, Toni Braxton & Babyface
Black Radio 2, Robert Glasper Experiment
Give The People What They Want, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Has it been mentioned how ‘different’ the R&B album category looks as of late? It’s almost like a crapshoot anymore. In some regards, it’s great to see lesser-known artists snag the nominations. On the other hand though, what about the better-known artists who are also getting snubbed? Here, there are plenty of absences, including the likes of Prince (Art Official Age), Jennifer Hudson (JHUD), and Ledisi (The Truth). Still Bernhoft has to be feeling good right now – whoever he is.
So who wins – great question that’s incredibly hard to answer. Robert Glasper won for Black Radio, so seems like he could be victorious here. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are definitely underrated, and winning Best R&B album would definitely be well deserved. But how about awarding two vets in Toni Braxton & Babyface – knocking out “two birds with one stone?” Then there’s Aloe Blacc, who’s “The Man” sadly went unrecognized. Could this be his moment? Likely, looks like a two-way race between Toni/Babyface and Robert Glasper.
Best Rap Performance:
“3005,” Childish Gambino (Because The Internet)
“0 To 100 / The Catch Up,” Drake
“Rap God,” Eminem (The Marshall Mathers LP2)*
“I,” Kendrick Lamar
“All I Need Is You,” Lecrae
The biggest snub in the Best rap performance category might be Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Still, there are three pleasant surprise inclusions with “3005,” “I,” and “All I Need Is You.” This would be a great opportunity to reward Kendrick Lamar, who somehow went home Grammy-less last year, but Eminem’s “Rap God” is too epic to refuse.
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration:
“Blak Majik,” Common featuring Jhené Aiko (Nobody’s Smiling)
“The Monster” Eminem featuring Rihanna (The Marshall Mathers LP2)
“Tuesday,” I Love Makonnen featuring Drake
“Studio,” Schoolboy Q featuring BJ The Chicago Kid (Oxymoron)
“Bound 2,” Kanye West & Charlie Wilson (Yeezus)*
Another stacked, excellent category. The most surprising inclusions are “Blak Majik” and “Tuesday.” You could include Schoolboy Q’s “Studio” in that mix as well. Still, this seems like a showdown between the #1 hit “The Monster” (Eminem and Rihanna) and one of Yeezus’ most valedictory moments, “Bound 2.” “Bound 2” is the better of the two songs, and it’s hard to see “The Monster” winning when the stronger collab between the two – “Love The Way You Lie” went home empty-handed a couple of years ago.
Best Rap Song:
“Anaconda” (Nicki Minaj)
“Bound 2” (Kanye West & Charlie Wilson)*
“I” (Kendrick Lamar)
“We Dem Boyz” (Wiz Khalifa)
“0 To 100 / The Catch Up” (Drake)
Best Rap Song is a question mark. The nominations are excellent, but it’s hard to pick because one questions if voters award this one alongside best rap performance. Interestingly, “Bound 2,” “I,” and “0 To 100 / The Catch-up” are nominated in both categories. Then again, there’s “Anaconda,” which was snubbed in the performance category that could be victorious here given its impact. Toss up, but frontrunners in my eyes are Kanye/Charlie, Kendrick, and Nicki.
Best Rap Album:
The New Classic, Iggy Azalea
Because The Internet, Childish Gambino
Nobody’s Smiling, Common
The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem*
Oxymoron, Schoolboy Q
Blacc Hollywood, Wiz Khalifa
Is Wiz Khalifa really nominated here? The other five albums all make sense. Who isn’t rooting for Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet, arguably the best album of the bunch? Even so, don’t we all believe this is a race between Eminem and Iggy? My guess is Eminem will win, though it would be nice to see either Childish Gambino or Common pull off the upset with exceptional efforts.