Notions is a weekly column that delves into what did, what should, what could, or what needs to happen in the world of technology and pop culture.
Over the last twenty years and 100 nominations, 12 hip-hop albums from six artists have been nominated for the Grammy for Album of The Year. The only winner was Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2004 (Lauryn Hill won in 1999 with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but the album was more R&B than hip-hop). Whatever the reason for the serious lack of hip-hop representation, the 2014 Grammy Awards will be markedly different, with three hip-hop albums from three artists that should undoubtedly expect nominations for Album of The Year. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which was released in October 2012, after the cutoff for the 2013 Grammys, Kanye West’s Yeezus, and Drake’s Nothing Was The Same.
It’s an astounding fact that the majority of legendary hip-hop albums were never nominated for Album of The Year. No Illmatic or Ready to Die. No All Eyez on Me or The Blueprint. No Get Rich or Die Tryin’ or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The four names unfailingly thrown out when discussing the greatest rappers of all-time — Nas, Biggie, Tupac, and Jay Z — have never been nominated for Album of The Year. But with the collection of albums released over the past year, there is no avoiding hip-hop’s critical and commercial dominance.
Kendrick Lamar blew away expectations and cemented his spot as a truly great lyricists with the concept album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Kanye West, who has been nominated three times for Album of The Year but never won, released the polarizing and genre-busting album, Yeezus, which received rave reviews — and after the lack of a nomination for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2011, which may be West’s greatest work — is all but guaranteed a nomination. Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, which was released today, is the most complete and cohesive album of the year, and the easily best of his career. After winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album for Take Care last year, the strength of Nothing Was The Same should easily land Drake a nomination for Album of The Year.
There are only five nominations for Album of The Year. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is a lock for a nomination, which leaves Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, and Justin Timberlake’s upcoming The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 (which most likely will be submitted to the The Recording Academy as The 20/20 Experience: The Complete Experience, the double album which includes the first half of The 20/20 Experience. If you are wondering why Timberlake is releasing The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 and the double album on Monday, September 30, instead of the typical Tuesday music release, the 2014 Grammy cut off date is Monday.) to fight over the final spot.
It remains to be seen if The Recording Academy will actually go ahead and nominate the five best albums, or overlook hip-hop again, or if any of these albums will actually win. The one thing that is very clear is The Recording Academy hasn’t had a better opportunity to include hip hop in its Album of The Year category since 1994 when Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, Nas’ Illmatic, and Biggie’s Ready to Die — all classic albums — weren’t even seriously considered. Let’s hope the times have changed.