Kanye, Jay-Z Battle Young Money For Best Rap Album Grammy

Will Yeezy capitalize on his double nods in the category, or will Lil Wayne or Nicki Minaj take the throne on Sunday night?

Who would've ever thought that hip-hop would take it this far? The Notorious B.I.G. posed the question on his 1994 classic "Juicy," and the 2012 Grammy nominations prove that hip-hop continues to rise to new heights. For the second year in a row, a rap artist is leading in Grammy nods: Last year it was Eminem, this year Kanye West.

Yeezy's seven nods take the cake. Two of West's nominations come in the hotly contested Best Rap Album category; one for his solo My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the other for his and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne tag-team LP.

Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV, Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday and Lupe Fiasco's Lasers round out the category, and while the odds are clearly in the Louis Vuitton Don's favor, he isn't exactly a lock.

If record sales have any impact, it will be tough to ignore the first-week sales of Wayne's Carter IV. The approximate 960,000 units Weezy sold in his first week didn't earn him a platinum plaque right out of the gate, but it stood as one of the biggest hip-hop stories of 2011. CIV has since been certified double platinum by the RIAA, and though some critics panned it, high-powered singles like "6 Foot 7 Foot," "She Will" and "John" helped cement Wayne's ninth solo album as a fan-favorite.

Just like her Young Money boss, Nicki Minaj reigned throughout the year thanks to Pink Friday. Released at the end of 2010 and anchored by the infectious and inescapable bonus track "Super Bass," Nicki's debut LP helped her to penetrate the pop space while still keeping a foot firmly planted in the streets with her "Did It on 'Em" single.

[artist id="2017563"]Lupe Fiasco[/artist] may be the dark horse of the group but considering the Recording Academy's knack for acknowledging hip-hop with a message, don't be surprised if the Chicago MC takes home the golden gramophone. Lasers was a commercial success thanks to its radio-friendly sound, but it didn't sit well with some die-hard fans because it was a departure from Fiasco's earlier work. Regardless of the LP's sound bed, Lupe's message remained potent. His criticism of President Obama on "Words I Never Said" was polarizing and opened up much political debate.

Kanye's MBDTF was highly touted when it dropped in November 2010, but was seemingly eclipsed by the meteoric Watch the Throne collaboration with Jay-Z. Discussing MBDTF's Album of the Year snub, Yeezy blamed himself, saying that he should have spaced his releases out "just a little bit more." But in the Best Rap Album category, his maddening pace only increases his chances.

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Chaos! Profanity! Wardrobe malfunctions! Don't miss Sway and James Montgomery live from the Grammys red carpet this Sunday, February 12, for a full three hours of mayhem, starting at 5 p.m. ET on MTV.com. And the fun doesn't end Sunday: MTV News has you covered until the Grammy hangover wears off!