Controversy and division: a closer look at the 2023 grammy nominees for best rap album
Spencer Yu, Staff Writer
The Grammys is one of the most controversial things in the hip hop space, some artists work their entire lives to win a trophy and to be recognized as one of the greats. While other artists say that the Grammys is nothing more than a popularity contest. This year’s Grammy nominations have me feeling very divided. While some of the nominated albums are deserving of the recognition they have received, others may have been chosen based on popularity rather than merit.
As a result, the validity of this year’s nominations feels tainted in a sense. With that, I thought it would be fun to go through each of the nominations for Best Rap Album.
It’s Almost Dry by Pusha T
Pusha T is one of those rappers that has been around for a while but never rose to the level of someone like Drake, or Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole. But over time he has perfected his craft and stayed true to his image of being a grittier rapper than most. I feel that his dedication to not only his craft but his image led to one of the greatest rap albums of the 2020s so far with It’s Almost Dry.
While it may not deliver a message in the way that an album like Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers can, it reminded me so much of why I love rap music in the first place. Clever wordplay, epic features and amazing samples. If you haven’t listened to this album already you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar
Easily my most anticipated release this year, Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers marks Kendrick Lamar’s return after the release of DAMN in 2017. It brought about a maturity that I haven’t heard from him before. It had my favourite rap song of the year, “Father Time.” The only issue that I could see with this album is that while it was undoubtedly his most genuine album yet, it is more low-energy compared to other releases this year.
I stated in my previous review of this album that the energy this album brings might not be what everyone likes in a rap album.
This album is a moment of catharsis for Lamar where he can express his issues and the elements surrounding them and I believe for that reason it is one of the best releases this year.
I NEVER LIKED YOU by Future
Future for me has always been in a similar vein to Drake where he has a very unique style and a very unique voice but not a ton of substance to back that up. I don’t believe it is a bad thing at all to have style over substance.
In my opinion, to be a good Grammy nomination contender, you need to have that substance to show that there is more to the
music than what is shown on the surface. That personally was my biggest issue with this album because it never really struck a chord with me like other albums could.
Certainly, it is an entertaining rap album to listen to, but for me, the sound of the album got a little stagnant by the end due to it having little variation. But if you can look past that, there is some enjoyment to be had.
Come Home The Kids Miss You by Jack Harlow
The biggest takeaway I had with Jack Harlow over 2022 was how much of an influence his songs had over social media. It felt like every other Instagram reel I saw had “First Class” laid on top of it; I think based on that alone it was inevitable that Come Home The Kids Miss You was going to be considered for Best Rap Album of the year.
However, a lot of the problems I have with Future’s I NEVER LIKED YOU rang true with this album as well in that it never did anything that really amazed me or showed me how far he has come since his last album. His rap performance was admirable but I always had the nagging feeling that he could be delivering more. I definitely think that Jack Harlow has the potential to one day release something really special. But for me, Come Home The Kids Miss You is more or less what I heard from him before.
God Did by DJ Khaled
On principle alone, I do not believe that this album is worthy of being nominated. In arguably one of the best years for rap music in recent memory, this album does not deserve a place in the top five of my 2022 list, much less the nominations list for the Grammys Best Rap Album. While other albums have focus and a sense of cohesion God Did feels more like a shotgun blast of whatever Khaled got his hands on that week.
Now the individual elements that make up this album aren’t bad. It has the equivalent of the Avengers of rap music on this album with artists like Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Drake appearing backed up with production by some of the biggest producers including Tay Kieth and Dr. Dre. As an entire package this album feels scattered with no focus at all; that is what happens when your album has nothing going for it except for the names involved. I don’t have a problem with this album particularly but what I do have a problem with is that this was even considered for being the Best Rap Album of the year. With releases not being nominated like Denzel Curry’s Melt My Eyes And See Your Future, Joey Badass’s 2000, and JID’s The Forever Story — it really makes me wonder why this album was even considered much less nominated.