Last year, the controversy surrounding rap at the Grammys came after the awards, when Macklemore swept, shutting out Kendrick Lamar (and Drake, and Jay Z, and Kanye West). This time around, though, hip-hop fans seem to have reached the zenith of their displeasure with the show before it airs (that is, barring Iggy Azalea taking home Rap Album of the Year -- then all bets are off).
That's because the project that many feel should win Rap Album of the Year, YG's My Krazy Life, isn't even nominated.
2014 in rap took plenty of heat from fans and critics alike, with the late A$AP Yams notably calling it "probably the worst year of rap music ever." Whether you agree or not, there's no disputing the names of last year's pack of nominees hold more weight than this year's.
This is to take nothing away from the actual nominees: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 by Eminem; Because The Internet by Childish Gambino; The New Classic by Iggy Azalea; Blacc Hollywood by Wiz Khalifa; Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q; and Nobody’s Smiling by Common.
Nor is it to suggest, of course, that the notoriety of a name equates to the worth of an album. And that again brings us back to YG.
Prior to March 2014, the L.A. native was relatively unknown, merely one of a number of buzzing rappers -- granted, one who had proven an ability to make radio hits -- who was working towards an official debut album. When that project arrived, though, things changed.
The album benefitted from the luxury of few expectations -- this was, after all, the guy who first broke out back in 2010, with "Toot It and Boot It," and who had been middling in apparent major label purgatory at Def Jam for a few years, dropping generally-well-received but not overly-praised mixtapes along the way to stay afloat.
And then we got My Krazy Life.
It was an effort of both conceptual and sonic cohesion, with the rapper taking us through life on the streets of Bompton -- the ups and downs, the parties and shootings -- and DJ Mustard streering a bulk of the production.
The singles -- including "My Hitta" and "Who Do You Love" -- were both stand alone hits and pieces of a larger story. The features -- from Drake to Kendrick Lamar to Jay Rock to Schoolboy Q to Ty Dolla $ign -- were both complimentary elements and individually memorable.
Regardless of the climate in which it dropped, or the overall state of Rap Music in 2014, YG's new-age gangsta rap opus was surely one of the best of the year (and, for purposes of the Grammys, one of the best between the eligibility period of Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014). It was quite possibly the best, and certainly one of the best six.
This fact is less one to diminish the projects that were nominated than it is simply (another) indicator that, at least when it comes to rap, the Grammy voters are out of touch with the pulse of listeners. And as such, artists and the hip-hop community as a whole would be wise not to overvalue a gramophone trophy.
With My Krazy Life, YG reminded us that it's possible to make conceptual become catchy, to make gangsta grow from thoughtfulness, and to make gritty coexist with flirtatious.