The front-runner for Best Rap Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards is also an outside contender to win Album of the Year at the same ceremony.
[artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist] has eight [article id="1600678"]Grammy nominations[/article], and the world will be watching to see if his magnum opus, Tha Carter III, can take home the academy's highest honor.
The self-proclaimed Martian sent his album down to Earth like the alien invasion in the film "Independence Day." By the time [article id="1589491"]Tha Carter III was released[/article] in early June, "A Milli" had already become nothing short of a national phenomenon (artists from [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] to [artist id="1273069"]Chris Brown[/artist] to [artist id="2002414"]Ne-Yo[/artist] had released underground freestyles over the record's track, giving the song legs) and the young and sexy "Lollipop" was a certified hit, becoming the #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Wayne sold more than 1 million copies of his album in its first week of release and made it too easy for DJs on the radio and in the clubs during their sets. Just play Wayne!
Records like "Got Money," "Comfortable," "Mrs. Officer," "You Ain't Got Nuthin," "Mr. Carter" and "La La" went into rotation on the radio and the clubs, while tracks such as "Dr. Carter," "Misunderstood" and "Tie My Hands" satisfied even the biggest Weezy skeptics. The boy could spit, and he had concepts and hit records. No wonder he was [article id="1601504"]MTV News' Man of the Year for 2008[/article].
All the dots were connected perfectly after almost two years of anticipation. High critical praise, fan jubilation and accolades like the Diddy blog labeling the LP as "classic" matched the sales. His reach was, and still is, wide — as wide as the doors of the vaults holding all the Cash Money he raked in. The Fireman got love from both sexes and all races, and he even appealed to some other people in addition to his youthful fanbase.
Obviously, getting eight Grammy nods was another highlight for him. With the odds overwhelmingly in his favor for Best Rap Album, do his competitors — T.I., Jay-Z and Nas — have a prayer at the Grammys?
"When you talk about the rap category, it's a landslide," XXL magazine's Bonsu Thompson said. "There's no competition for Wayne. He had pretty much no competition. He outrapped and outperformed every other rap artist out there this year.
"With Wayne you have alternatives," Thompson added. "You have cerebral rapping. On a skill level, supreme skills."
But can that magnetic arsenal be enough to put him over Radiohead, [article id="1604102"]Ne-Yo[/article], [article id="1603961"]Coldplay[/article] and Robert Plant & Allison Krauss? Thompson says probably not.
"I don't think the academy gets Wayne," the journalist said. "I think that's what they are intrigued by. Lil Wayne is not a typical rapper to them. He was really a rock star this year, from his attire to calling himself an alien. He's just out there. I think it will be very difficult for Wayne to take album of the year.
"Anybody who's familiar with entertainment, you know that Coldplay is the favorite," he continued. "When you take Wayne out of the rap category and put him in the pop category, it will be difficult."
If history is any guide to what will happen in 2009, his chances look to be between extremely difficult and impossible. There's a short list of MCs, including Nelly, MC Hammer and Eminem (twice), who have been nominated in that category. The only rap acts to win a Grammy for Album of the Year have been Outkast for Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below and Lauryn Hill for her Miseducation LP. We all know those projects weren't traditional rap releases. They had as much to do with singing as they did with spewing rhymes.
"Can Lil Wayne win album of the year? I think that when you have eight nominations in one sitting, it's obvious that you have to win something," said radio personality Miss Info, whose MissInfo.tv has become one of the top hip-hop blogs. "But the big cheese generally goes to people who don't have a face tattoo, so I'm kinda leaning towards no, even though he definitely deserves it. But last year, it went to [article id="1581292"]Herbie Hancock[/article]. So Herbie Hancock and Lil Wayne? I'm not sure we've gotten cool in the [span] of a year."
Info cites Coldplay as a possible top choice as well.
"Wayne's chances against Coldplay are slim to none," she said. "But I'm a pessimist. As a hip-hop fan, I've experienced years where Will Smith was the resident rap nominee. So clearly, just the fact that Wayne is nominated is hard for me to believe. Coldplay had a really solid album that turned into an album and a half, and I think, overall, they are less scary.
"I'm gonna take a chance and say that while there are a couple of people in the music industry who are obviously savvy about hip-hop that are voting, there are probably a lot more bluehairs who have no clue and are just going along with it because they don't want someone to point them out and say, 'You don't even belong here anymore,' " she added. "So people are nominating Lil Wayne because he's huge, he's everywhere. And at this point, the Grammys have to compete as an entity as well. So, if they aren't relevant, no one is going to watch."
Come February 8, we'll be tuned in to see if Wayne can do what Kanye West couldn't do last year: take home Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. Many of his peers are rooting for him.
"Why not?" Pitbull said. "He's super-talented. He deserves it."
Will Lil Wayne grab all the gramophones? Is Katy Perry going to tell her girl rivals to kiss off? Can Coldplay march off with a win? MTV News is all over the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, so stay tuned for interviews, analysis and more before, during and after the big night, Sunday, February 8.