Rap At The Grammys
Nicki Minaj has seemed to be the front-runner to win the Grammy for Best New Artist since her debut album, Pink Friday, entered The Billboard 200 at #2 in November 2010. The album later reached #1. Minaj has amassed five top 10 singles, counting featured credits on hits by Trey Songz, Drake, Big Sean and David Guetta. But there's a complicating factor: Grammy voters rarely vote for rap artists in the "Big Four" categories—Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
Although rap has been a key part of pop culture for three decades, just two hip-hop artists (Arrested Development and Lauryn Hill) have won for Best New Artist.
Puff Daddy was nominated as Best New Artist of 1997, but lost to Paula Cole, who had a pair of big hits that year ("Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want To Wait"), and then faded from view. Despite having the #1 album of 2003, Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 50 Cent lost as that year's Best New Artist to the rock group Evanescence.
The following year, Kanye West lost to Maroon 5. Yet West was nominated for Album of the Year for each of his first three albums, The College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation. He was nominated for Record of the Year for his 2005 smash "Gold Digger" (featuring Jamie Foxx). Maroon 5 has yet to be nominated in either of those headline-generating categories.
Drake was nominated for Best New Artist last year, but, in one of the most jaw-dropping moments in Grammy history, lost to classical artist Esperanza Spalding.
But at least those rappers were nominated for the award. Jay-Z and Eminem weren't so lucky. That's not so surprising in the case of Jay-Z. His debut album, Reasonable Doubt, was a hit in 1996, but he really came into his own with the release of his third album, Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, in 1998. But it is surprising in the case of Eminem, whose 1999 debut, The Slim Shady LP, was an instant hit. (The winner that year: Christina Aguilera.)
So will Minaj's name be called out on Feb. 12 when the 54th annual Grammy Awards are presented at Staples Center in Los Angeles? It may come down to whether the voters' attraction to female solo artists in the New Artist category (females have won in 13 of the last 20 years) outweighs their inclination not to vote for rap artists in this and other "Big Four" categories.