By Maurice Bobb
Kanye West swept the major rap categories at last year’s Grammy Awards with Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “All Of The Lights” and Best Rap Performance for “Otis” with Jay-Z. How does hip-hop at the 2013 Grammys compare to last year’s lineup though?
This year, Yeezy’s back in the mix for Best Rap Song for “Mercy,” Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” and Best Rap Performance for “N—as In Paris,” but the G.O.O.D. Music mogul has plenty of competition from hip-hop and R&B’s new regime.
Frank Ocean, the quietest member of the Odd Future collective, ties ’Ye and Jay at the 55th annual awards with six nods, including Album of the Year for Channel Orange and Record of the Year for “Thinkin Bout You.” The R&B crooner has the popular and critical backing to win both. As for the four major rap categories, this could be the year of Nas.
The legendary Queens MC re-energized his career with his thought-provoking, lyrically potent opus, Life is Good, which is up for Best Rap Album. Lupe Fiasco, who is nominated in the same category for his politically charged LP, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, recently told Jenny Boom Boom that even though all of his albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album, he believes Escobar will emerge victorious.
“No, clearly I won’t,” Lupe said when asked if he’ll win this time around. “I think they are going to give it to Nas to be honest.”
Hip-hop purists have also been clamoring for Esco to win Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his poignant ode to fatherhood, “Daughters.” The song and accompanying video was well-received by critics and fans alike and showed an unusually guarded Nas sharing one of the most intimate parts of his daily life: the ups and downs of raising his daughter, Destiny, while navigating his own path as a prominent entertainer.
“She made me more responsible in lots of ways,” Nas said about his daughter to MTV Act. “She made me want to stay around at a time in my life where it didn’t matter. It made me care. I stayed safe and stayed around and alive.”
Other rap superstars rounding out the field include Young Jeezy (Best Rap Performance “I Do”), Snoop Lion and Wiz Khalifa (Best Rap Song “Young, Wild & Free”), Rick Ross (Best Rap Album God Forgives, I Don’t), Wale (Best Rap Song “Lotus Flower Bomb”) and Drake, who is up for three awards, including Best Rap Album for his platinum-selling sophomore release, Take Care.
As for performers, host and rap legend LL Cool J will take the stage with Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Wiz Khalifa and Rihanna will perform, as will Frank Ocean, despite hurting his hand in an altercation with Chris Brown, who is nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album (Fortune).
Justin Timberlake, who is back after a seven-year music hiatus, will hit the stage, too. Fans are hoping that Jay-Z, who didn’t show at last year’s awards, will join JT onstage to rip through their recent collabo, “Suit & Tie,” from the Bud Light Platinum creative director’s upcoming third album, The 20/20 Experience.