Grammys 2023: Thoughts on the Nominations in Hip Hop, R&B

Photo:  Aaron J. Thornton // Antony Jones // Larry Busacca/PW18 (Getty Images)
Photo: Aaron J. Thornton // Antony Jones // Larry Busacca/PW18 (Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the Grammy nominations are here, which means more complaints from music fans about their favorite artists getting snubbed from the award show. Fortunately, I’m one of those fans and I’m going to break down some of these nominations in the hip-hop and rap categories.

When it comes to the Grammys, everyone is never going to be happy. In most categories, there are only five slots, which makes it impossible to acknowledge every artist that’s put out exceptional music this year. So while I do have some issues with some of the nominees, I understand that in most cases the Recording Academy is just trying to appease as many fan groups as possible and also there is a possibility an artist was “snubbed” because they did not submit their album within the eligibility period.

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Let’s start with the R&B categories. Firstly, I don’t have any real strong feelings over who and who wasn’t nominated, outside of Chris Brown, who got nominated for Best R&B Album for his 2022 album, Breezy (Deluxe). There are only five R&B categories and they include, Best Progressive R&B Album, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song. Predictably, many of the nominees are Black and I’m excited that each and every one of them was nominated.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, was the most nominated in R&B, getting a nod in every category except Best Progressive R&B Album. Beyoncé was the second most nominated in these categories getting a nod in every category except Best Progressive R&B Album and Best R&B Album.

While I’m happy Beyoncé got these nods, I question why she’s even in the R&B category in the first place. These songs are clearly Pop/Dance records and should be acknowledged as such by the Recording Academy (outside of maybe “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA). Beyoncé created a dance album, and just because she has a soulful voice doesn’t mean she should be boxed into the R&B category. But, to the Grammy’s credit, she was nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Maybe it was Beyonce’s intention to be nominated in R&B, and Dance categories.

My only snub in these categories is Brent Faiyaz. Admittedly, I’m a Stan and will support any and everything Brent puts out. But why in the hell was he not nominated? He (unbiasedly) had one of the best-selling R&B albums of the year and is one of the rising stars in the genre. Nominate him! Maybe he didn’t submit his album, but I just wish he got a nod.

Now, let me get to the hip-hop categories, where I have some real issues. For Hip-Hop/Rap, there are four categories and they are Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Performance. To no surprise, Kendrick Lamar was nominated in every category. I don’t have any issues with the categories dealing with single songs and performances because there are so many put out each year and they are so hard to judge. When looking at the Rap categories, I go straight to Best Rap Album. This year, this category is by far the worst.

The nominees are Dj Khaled’s GOD DID, Future’s I NEVER LIKED YOU, Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry and Jack Harlow’s Come Home the Kids Miss You.

Kendrick and Pusha are worthy nominees, so I’ll leave them alone. But the other three are not. Firstly, Dj Khaled should never be nominated in any category that has to deal with creating albums. In my eyes, he puts together unorganized compilations with popular artists and gets rewarded when he shouldn’t. Every album has a couple of hit songs, but that does not mean he should be nominated for anything having to do with creating an album.

I understand why Future was nominated because you have to have an artist represent the trap crowd, he wouldn’t have been one of my picks, but I get it. I’ve written ad nauseam about the mediocrity of Harlow’s 2022 album and how he’s getting a lot of undeserving praise for it. To put it plainly, his album was below average at best and does not deserve to be nominated for Best Rap Album.

There were so many other rap artists that have huge fan bases and put out rap albums that were unquestionably superior to Harlow’s and Khaled’s albums. To name a few, JID’s The Forever Story, Denzel Curry’s Melt My Eyez See Your Future, Vince Staples’ RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART, Joey Bada$$’s 2000, Black Thought’s Cheat Codes. These aren’t unknown artists, these rappers are popular and beloved by millions.

And no, these albums aren’t too “rapity” or “underground,” they have songs made for expansive audiences. If so many of these deserving MCs continue to be left out, I think it’s time another category is made for rap. Pop has multiple album categories, so does R&B, and so does rock, so can’t rap get an extra one?

The Grammys continue to award the most popular artists when they claim that all they care about is quality. One year, like in 2021, it feels like they care and then the next year they don’t. I just want some consistency from the Recording Academy and everyone voting.

To view the full list of nominees, head on over to grammys.com. The 2023 Grammys will air live Sunday, Feb. 5 at 8:30 p.m.ET, on CBS and streaming live on Paramount+.

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