The GRAMMY Awards have a long, storied history of making questionable decisions. The self-proclaimed “music industry’s highest honor” was created to celebrate exceptional achievements in music each year, and sometimes it fulfills that purpose. But more often than not, especially within non-pop communities, the GRAMMYs spark outrage among fans and critics by snubbing well-deserving artists and instead safely awarding the lowest common denominator.
In this investigation, we’ll take a look at the Best Rap Performance category, created 30 years ago at the 1989 GRAMMY Awards, and highlight each year’s nominees and winners, as well as those performances which the Academy snubbed from the nominee list. As the GRAMMYs roll back around this Sunday, we invite you to join us in setting the record straight by honoring the truly greatest performances of the last 30 years.
Editor's Note: The Best Rap Performance category was split from 1991 to 2011 into Solo and Duo/Group categories. The Solo category was further split in 2003 and 2004 into Male and Female categories. We’ve focused on the Solo Performance categories from ‘91 to ‘11, though the GRAMMYs surely committed sins in the group category as well (A Tribe Called Quest received just one nomination, and Wu-Tang Clan was never nominated).
The Nominees: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”; J.J. Fad, “Supersonic”; Kool Moe Dee “Wild Wild West”; LL Cool J, “Going Back To Cali”; Salt-n-Pepa, “Push It”
The Snubs: Eric B. & Rakim, “Follow the Leader”; N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton”; Public Enemy, “Bring the Noise”
The Winner: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
Who Should Have Won: N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton”
The GRAMMYs fed the cliché of picking very safe winners from the very first year. Though Jazzy Jeff and Big Willie had a major crossover hit with their goofy, Generation X-pandering storytelling, the year was chock full of game-changing records. Though it’s hard to pick just one, “Straight Outta Compton” most embodies the spirit of rap to come. N.W.A.’s trifecta of MCs truly bore witness throughout their unrelenting verses to the “power of street knowledge.”
The Nominees: De La Soul, “Me Myself and I”; DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson”; Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”; Tone Loc, “Funky Cold Medina”; Young MC, “Bust A Move”
The Snubs: Beastie Boys, “Hey Ladies”; Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, “Road to the Riches”; Slick Rick, “Children’s Story”
The Winner: Young MC, “Bust A Move”
Who Should Have Won: Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
Another G-rated pop rap won in 1990, despite the widespread lyrical depth and experimentation happening around the country at the time. Even Young MC said in an interview he didn’t feel like he “needed to live up to anything” and just tried to “appeal to as many people as possible.” Public Enemy, on the other hand, saw injustice around them and used their voices to speak out. No MC has sounded as commanding as Chuck D does on “Fight the Power,” demanding freedom of speech and paving the way for decades of conscious rappers to come.
The Nominees: Big Daddy Kane, “I Get the Job Done”; MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”; Monie Love, “Monie in the Middle”; Queen Latifah, All Hail the Queen; Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby”
The Snubs: Ice Cube, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”; Paris, “The Devil Made Me Do It”; Too $hort, “The Ghetto”
The Winner: MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”
Who Should Have Won: Queen Latifah, All Hail the Queen
Hammer’s iconic mega-hit certainly is a bop and deserves credit where credit is due. But Queen Latifah’s debut record (the GRAMMYs hadn’t yet separated album and song categories) remains as fresh today as 30 years ago. Touching on jazz, reggae, and soul influences, All Hail featured Queen Latifah seamlessly combining the authority of Ice Cube and the smooth flows of her fellow Native Tongues MCs. It’s a career-defining record and shamefully is not brought up enough in greatest albums discussions.
The Nominees: Ice-T, “New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme)”; LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”; MC Hammer, “Here Comes the Hammer”; Monie Love, “It’s a Shame (My Sister)”
The Snubs: Del the Funky Homosapien, “Mistadobalina”; Ice Cube, “Steady Mobbin’”; MC Lyte, “Poor Georgie”
The Winner: LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Who Should Have Won: LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”
The GRAMMYs finally got one right when they picked LL’s greatest of bangers.
The Nominees: LL Cool J, “Strictly Business”; Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “You Gotta Believe”; MC Hammer, “Addams Groove”; Queen Latifah, “Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here”; Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”
The Snubs: 2Pac, “Brenda’s Gotta Baby”; Paris, “The Days of Old”; Redman, “Blow Your Mind”
The Winner: Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”
Who Should Have Won: 2Pac, “Brenda’s Got A Baby”
It’s an absolute shame that Pac never received a GRAMMY award despite continually being referenced as one of rap’s greatest influences. Instead, the Academy decided Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hypersexualized cringe-fest, which only served to promote terrible rap stereotypes, was more deserving than Pac’s empathy-inducing look at drugs, abuse, and the harsh reality that personal choices affect entire communities. Despite the snub, Pac’s message has served as an inspiration for decades.
The Nominees: Dr. Dre, “Let Me Ride”; LL Cool J, “Stand By Your Man”; MC Lyte, “Ruffneck”; Paperboy, “Ditty”; Sir Mix-a-Lot, “Just Da Pimpin’ In Me”
The Snubs: 2Pac, “Keep Ya Head Up”; Common, “Soul By the Pound”; Ice Cube, “It Was A Good Day”
The Winner: Dr. Dre, “Let Me Ride”
Who Should Have Won: Dr. Dre, “Let Me Ride”
Compton was absolutely on fire in the year leading up to the thirty-sixth GRAMMY Awards, where Dr. Dre rightly won for his Chronic classic.
The Nominees: Coolio, “Fantastic Voyage”; Craig Mack, “Flava In Ya Ear”; Queen Latifah, “U.N.I.T.Y.”; Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Gin and Juice”; Warren G, “This D.J.”
The Snubs: Common, “I Used to Love H.E.R.”; Nas, “The World Is Yours”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy”
The Winner: Queen Latifah, “U.N.I.T.Y.”
Who Should Have Won: Nas, “N.Y. State of Mind”
After a few off years, New York finally had their answer to the West Coast explosion in Biggie Smalls and Nas (and, of course, Wu-Tang). Nas’ debut is widely considered by hip-hop aficionados to be one of the greatest albums of all time. “N.Y. State of Mind’s” minimally bleak production by DJ Premier offered Nas the chance to “paint a picture of the city like nobody else,” as Nas told Rolling Stone. At just 18, the “smooth criminal on breakbeats” had become a hip-hop icon whose legacy continues 20-plus years later.
The Nominees: 2Pac, “Dear Mama”; Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise”; Dr. Dre, “Keep Their Heads Ringin’”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Big Poppa”; Skee-Lo, “I Wish”
The Snubs: Method Man, “Bring the Pain”; Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”; Raekwon, “Criminology”
The Winner: Coolio, “Gangsta’s Paradise”
Who Should Have Won: Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
ODB was one of a kind. His unhinged approach to rap has been adopted by many from Nicki Minaj to Merlyn Wood of BROCKHAMPTON. But none have been quite so raw as Dirty delivering the iconic bar “Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay” off his solo debut Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. ODB certainly didn’t possess the lyrical prowess of his fellow Wu-Tang MCs, but his zealous energy was infectious.
The Nominees: Busta Rhymes, “Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check”; Coolio, “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)”; Heavy D, “Rock With You”; LL Cool J, “Hey Lover”; Nas, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”
The Snubs: GZA, “Liquid Swords”; JAY-Z, “Dead Presidents II”; Xzibit, “Paparazzi”
The Winner: LL Cool J, “Hey Lover”
Who Should Have Won: Nas, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”
LL Cool J collabed with Boyz II Men to create one of the cheesiest tracks to win the GRAMMY. Perhaps it was an attempt to keep up with the smooth sexiness Biggie Smalls had perfected in the ‘90s, but in any case, it’s not good. Nas, on the other hand, updated a Kurtis Blow chorus to create a New York style utopia alongside Lauryn Hill and cemented his place in the hip-hop history books.
The Nominees: Busta Rhymes, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”; LL Cool J, “Ain’t Nobody”; Missy Elliott, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Hypnotize”; Will Smith, “Men In Black”
The Snubs: Common, “Hungry”; Scarface, “Mary Jane”; Warren G, “I Shot the Sheriff”
The Winner: Will Smith, “Men In Black”
Who Should Have Won: The Notorious B.I.G., “Hypnotize”
No longer the Fresh Prince, Smith returned to win his first of back-to-back GRAMMYs in this category, continuing the narrative of pop-rap reigning over quality performances. However, Biggie Smalls was able to masterfully appeal to both the critic and the crowd with his slick flows, lyrical excellence, and hooky choruses. Another legend who never won a GRAMMY, Biggie certainly deserved a posthumous win for “Hypnotize.”
The Nominees: Busta Rhymes, “Dangerous”; JAY-Z, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”; Lauryn Hill, “Lost Ones”; Will Smith, “Gettin’ Jiggy With It”; Wyclef Jean, “Gone till November”
The Snubs: Big Pun, “You Ain’t A Killer”; DMX, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”; Snoop Dogg, “Still A G Thang”
The Winner: Will Smith, “Gettin’ Jiggy With It”
Who Should Have Won: Lauryn Hill, “Lost Ones”
After experiencing major success with the Fugees, Lauryn Hill became a hip-hop legend with just a single album. While her number one hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)” won two awards in the R&B category, “Lost Ones” was snubbed for yet another Will Smith pop track. Nonetheless, Hill relentlessly shows off her rapping chops on this reggae-tinged breakup track.
The Nominees: 2Pac, “Changes”; Busta Rhymes, “Gimme Some More”; Eminem, “My Name Is”; Q-Tip, “Vivrant Thing”; Will Smith, “Wild Wild West”
The Snubs: Juvenile, “Ha”; MF Doom, “Doomsday”; Mos Def, “Mathematics”
The Winner: Eminem, “My Name Is”
Who Should Have Won: Mos Def, “Mathematics”
Though Eminem’s profane and shocking entrance into the rap game is certainly noteworthy, Mos Def’s solo debut record offered one last push of New York-based Afrocentric boom bap to end the ‘90s. With masterful lyricism and a deep understanding of racial inequality, Mos Def urges the listener to “do your math,” i.e. “stay woke.” “Mathematics” is one of those songs which truly proves that hip-hop serves as a news source for the disillusioned.
The Nominees: Common, “The Light”; DMX, “Party Up (Up in Here)”; Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”; Mystikal, “Shake Ya Ass”; Nelly, “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)”
The Snubs: Beanie Sigel, “The Truth”; Big L, “Flamboyant”; Ghostface Killah, “Mighty Healthy”
The Winner: Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”
Who Should Have Won: Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”
Eminem may not have given a damn about this GRAMMY, but he certainly deserved it.
The Nominees: Afroman, “Because I Got High”; DMX, “Who We Be”; JAY-Z, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”; Missy Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On”; Nelly, “Ride Wit Me”
The Snubs: Aesop Rock, “Daylight”; Coo Coo Cal, “My Projects”; Petey Pablo, “Raise Up”
The Winner: Missy Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On”
Who Should Have Won: Missy Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On”
Misdemeanor started a fire streak in 2002 with this eerie classic, though Jay’s “Izzo” was a worthy contender.
The Nominees: Female: Charli Baltimore, “Diary”; Eve, “Satisfaction”; Foxy Brown, “Na Na Be Like”; Ms. Lauryn Hill, “Mystery of Iniquity”; Missy Elliott, “Scream a.ka. Itchin’”; Male: Eminem, “Without Me”; JAY-Z, “Song Cry”; Ludacris, “Rollout (My Business)”; Mystikal, “Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall)”; Nelly, “Hot In Herre”
The Snubs: Nas, “Ether”; Scarface, “On My Block”; Talib Kweli, “Good To You”
The Winner: Female: Missy Elliott, “Scream a.ka. Itchin’”; Male: Nelly, “Hot In Herre”
Who Should Have Won: Female: Ms. Lauryn Hill, “Mystery of Iniquity”; Male: Nelly, “Hot In Herre”
This was a bad year for hip-hop. I guess they got the male category right with Nelly’s smash hit. But missing out on awarding Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity”—part indictment of the justice system, part sermon on repentance—is straight sinful. Taken from her live album MTV Unplugged No 2.0, Hill furiously raps over nothing more than a few spare staccato strums of her guitar on this masterpiece.
The Nominees: Female: Da Brat, “Got It Poppin’”; Lil’ Kim, “Came Back For You”; MC Lyte, “Ride Wit’ Me”; Missy Elliott, “Work It”; Queen Latifah, “Go Head”; Male: 50 Cent, “In Da Club”; Eminem, “Lose Yourself”; Joe Budden, “Pump It Up”; Ludacris, “Stand Up”; Sean Paul, “Get Busy”
The Snubs: Chingy, “Right Thurr”; JAY-Z, “‘03 Bonnie and Clyde”; T.I., “24’s”
The Winner: Female: Missy Elliott, “Work It”; Male: Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
Who Should Have Won: Female: Missy Elliott, “Work It”; Male: Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
Miraculously, the GRAMMYs went two for two here.
The Nominees: Eminem, “Just Lose It”; JAY-Z, “99 Problems”; Kanye West, “Through the Wire”; Lloyd Banks, “On Fire”; Twista, “Overnight Celebrity”
The Snubs: J-Kwon, “Tipsy”; Madvillain, Madvillainy; Young Buck, “Shorty Wanna Ride”
The Winner: JAY-Z, “99 Problems”
Who Should Have Won: Kanye West, “Through the Wire”
Hold up, HOV, I’mma let you finish. You’ll get your GRAMMY in a few years. But Kanye West’s College Dropout is one of the most important records of all time. Not only that, but Ye literally went into the studio just weeks after almost dying in a car accident and rapped this thing with his jaw wired shut. Not only THAT but Ye’s Chaka Khan sample here led to the greatest chipmunk soul beat of all time.
The Nominees: 50 Cent, “Disco Inferno”; Common, “Testify”; Eminem, “Mockingbird”; Kanye West, “Gold Digger”; Ludacris, “Number One Spot”; T.I., “U Don’t Know Me”
The Snubs: Lil Wayne, “Go D.J.”; Missy Elliott ft. Ciara & Fat Man Scoop, “Lose Control”; Young Jeezy, “Soul Survivor”
The Winner: Kanye West, “Gold Digger”
Who Should Have Won: Missy Elliott ft. Ciara & Fat Man Scoop, “Lose Control”
Another rough year, but the staircase-ascending beat on Missy’s self-produced track is iconic. Though there may not be much substance here, the hypnotic nature of the song is definitive and speaks to one of music’s original purposes: making people move. Sidekicked by Ciara and Fat Man Scoop, Misdemeanor combined pop elements with electronic beats and crunk swagger to make a lasting party hit, and there’s nothing wrong about that.
The Nominees: Busta Rhymes, “Touch It”; Lupe Fiasco, “Kick, Push”; Missy Elliott, “We Run This”; Mos Def, “Undeniable”; T.I., “What You Know”
The Snubs: Ghostface Killah, “The Champ”; Lil Wayne, “Fireman”; Rick Ross, “Hustlin’”
The Winner: T.I., “What You Know”
Who Should Have Won: Lupe Fiasco, “Kick, Push”
T.I. was instrumental in the rise of the Atlanta scene and trap music toward the end of the ‘00s, but his 2008 album Paper Trail was a more deserving effort. At the same time, a promising voice from Chicago debuted his first single, “Kick, Push,” to much acclaim. Backed by lush horns and strings, Lupe tells an uplifting story of skateboarding through life. Like Bruce Springsteen taking a “ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines,” Lupe Fiasco was “just a rebel looking for a place to be,” escaping life on his skateboard because “freedom was better than breathing.”
The Nominees: 50 Cent, “I Get Money”; Common, “The People”; JAY-Z, “Show Me What You Got”; Kanye West, “Stronger”; T.I., “Big Shit Poppin’ (Do It)”
The Snubs: Brother Ali, “Uncle Sam Goddamn”; Killer Mike, “That’s Life”; Soulja Boy, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”
The Winner: Kanye West, “Stronger”
Who Should Have Won: Kanye West, “Stronger”
Here lie the remains of the Bling Era, vanquished by the shutter shade-donning, Daft Punk-sampling new king of hip-hop.
The Nominees: JAY-Z, “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...”; Lil Wayne, “A Milli”; Lupe Fiasco, “Paris, Tokyo”; Nas, “N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)”; Snoop Dogg, “Sexual Eruption”
The Snubs: Q-Tip, “Gettin Up”; Rick Ross ft. T-Pain, “The Boss”; T.I., “Live Your Life”
The Winner: Lil Wayne, “A Milli”
Who Should Have Won: Lil Wayne, “A Milli”
The end of a rough decade for hip-hop. However, Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” marked the beginning of a resurgence in southern hip-hop.
The Nominees: Drake, “Best I Ever Had”; Eminem, “Beautiful”; JAY-Z, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”; Kid Cudi, “Day ‘n’ Nite”; Mos Def, “Casa Bey”
The Snubs: Cam’ron, “My Job”; Kanye West, “Heartless”; MF Doom, “That’s That”
The Winner: JAY-Z, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”
Who Should Have Won: Kid Cudi, “Day ‘n’ Nite”
In one of the most ironic GRAMMY twists, a song called “Death of Auto-Tune” won in the year of 808s and Heartbreak, So Far Gone, and Man on the Moon. JAY-Z fell on the wrong side of history this year, and the melodic rap and electronic influences of these records began infiltrating every corner of the genre. All that to say, Cudi’s psychedelic art rap classic still sounds amazing and its impact continues to be felt in everything from Kids See Ghosts to Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD.
The Nominees: Drake, “Over”; Eminem, “Not Afraid”; Kanye West, “Power”; Ludacris, “How Low”; T.I., “I’m Back”
The Snubs: Big Boi, “Shutterbug”; Nicki Minaj, “Your Love”; Waka Flocka Flame, “Hard in Da Paint”
The Winner: Eminem, “Not Afraid”
Who Should Have Won: Kanye West, “Power”
Kanye’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy still stands as the apex of musical achievement in hip-hop. While Eminem had a decent recovery (pun intended) from a sub-par stretch of records, the importance of “Power,” and other tracks such as “Runaway” and “All of the Lights,” will not be forgotten for decades to come.
The Nominees: Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, “Look At Me Know”; JAY-Z and Kanye West, “Otis”; Lupe Fiasco, “The Show Goes On”; Nicki Minaj ft. Drake, “Moment 4 Life”; Wiz Khalifa, “Black and Yellow”
The Snubs: A$AP Rocky, “Peso”; Drake, “Marvins Room”; J. Cole, “Lights Please”
The Winner: JAY-Z and Kanye West, “Otis”
Who Should Have Won: JAY-Z and Kanye West, “Otis”
Ye and HOV over Otis Redding samples remains the standout of this bunch of mostly OK pop-rap tracks.
The Nominees: Drake ft. Lil Wayne, “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)”; JAY-Z and Kanye West, “Niggas In Paris”; Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz, “Mercy”; Nas, “Daughters”; Young Jeezy ft. JAY-Z and André 3000, “I Do”
The Snubs: Danny Brown, “Grown Up”; Killer Mike, “Reagan”; Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz, “Beez in the Trap”
The Winner: JAY-Z and Kanye West, “N*ggas In Paris”
Who Should Have Won: JAY-Z and Kanye West, “N*ggas In Paris”
It irks me to give back-to-back wins to the Watch the Throne collaboration, but six years later this record still bangs.
The Nominees: Drake, “Started From the Bottom”; Eminem, “Berzerk”; JAY-Z, “Tom Ford”; Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”; Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz, “Thrift Shop”
The Snubs: A$AP Rocky ft. Drake, 2 Chainz, & Kendrick Lamar, “Fuckin’ Problems”; Chance the Rapper ft. Vic Mensa & Twista, “Cocoa Butter Kisses”; Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels”
The Winner: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz, “Thrift Shop”
Who Should Have Won: Kendrick Lamar, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
One of the most infamous moments in GRAMMY history happened when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were awarded not one, not two, but four awards, completely snubbing Kendrick Lamar’s breakout album good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Kendrick did absolutely everything right on “Swimming Pools (Drank).” The flows are crisp. The expression and inflections in Kendrick’s voice are a masterclass. The hook, an all-time Trojan horse in hip-hop, is dynamite. And the murky trap beat is unmatched. Perhaps the most egregious snub of the entire bunch.
The Nominees: Childish Gambino, “3005”; Drake, “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”; Eminem, “Rap God”; Kendrick Lamar, “i”; Lecrae, “All I Need Is You”
The Snubs: Isaiah Rashad, “Heavenly Father”; Rich Gang, “Lifestyle”; Wiz Khalifa, “We Dem Boyz”
The Winner: Kendrick Lamar, “i”
Who Should Have Won: Kendrick Lamar, “i”
The GRAMMYs got it right a year later.
The Nominees: Drake, “Back To Back”; Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”; J. Cole, “Apparently”; Kanye West ft. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom, and Paul McCartney, “All Day”; Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”; Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne, “Truffle Butter”
The Snubs: Earl Sweatshirt ft. Vince Staples, “Wool”; Travis Scott, “Antidote”; Vince Staples, “Norf Norf”
The Winner: Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
Who Should Have Won: Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
The song of a movement. Kendrick certainly deserved the back-to-back wins he received.
The Nominees: Chance the Rapper ft. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, “No Problem”; Desiigner, “Panda”; Drake ft. The Throne, “Pop Style”; Fat Joe and Remy Ma ft. French Montana & Infared, “All the Way Up”; Schoolboy Q ft. Kanye West, “That Part”
The Snubs: A Tribe Called Quest, “We the People…”; Danny Brown ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt, “Really Doe”; Kendrick Lamar, “untitled 07”
The Winner: Chance the Rapper ft. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, “No Problem”
Who Should Have Won: A Tribe Called Quest, “We the People…”
A Tribe Called Quest has never won a GRAMMY. Despite being invited to perform alongside Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak at the GRAMMY Awards in 2017, their reunion record didn’t even receive a nomination. While Chance the Rapper’s win was an important moment in GRAMMY history, becoming the first streaming-only performance to win an award, “We the People…” spoke directly to the political climate of the year, calling out racism, homophobia, false narratives, and gentrification over booming drums and cutting synthesizers.
The Nominees: Big Sean, “Bounce Back”; Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow”; JAY-Z, “4:44”; Kendrick Lamar, “HUMBLE.”; Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert, “Bad and Boujee”
The Snubs: Future, “Mask Off”; Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3”; Tyler, the Creator, “Boredom”
The Winner: Kendrick Lamar, “HUMBLE.”
Who Should Have Won: Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow”
Yes, we all agree that the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. is a monumental record. However, other album tracks like “DNA.” or “FEEL.” perhaps deserved this award over “HUMBLE.” Meanwhile, Cardi B exploded onto the scene in 2017 with her breakout smash “Bodak Yellow.” Her charisma and commanding presence allowed her to climb straight to the top of the game in her red bottom, bloody shoes. We’ll see if the GRAMMYs rectifies this snub in 2019, where Cardi is up for five awards.
The Nominees: Anderson .Paak, “Bubblin’”; Cardi B, “Be Careful”; Drake, “Nice For What”; Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, and James Blake, “King’s Dead”; Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, and Swae Lee, “Sicko Mode”
The Snubs: Denzel Curry, “Black Balloons”; Noname ft. Smino & Saba, “Ace”; Pusha T, “If You Know You Know”; Saba, “PROM / KING”
The Winner: Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, and James Blake "King's Dead"; Anderson .Paak, “Bubblin’” (tie)
Who Should Have Won: Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, and Swae Lee, “Sicko Mode”
This year offered plenty of great options for Best Rap Performance, but “Sicko Mode” was larger than life. From the multiple beat switches to the samples of Notorious B.I.G., Big Hawk, and Uncle Luke, the track harnessed furious energy. Both Travis and Drake were in top form throughout the song, the latter offering subliminal references toward the blockbuster beef between him, Kanye, and Pusha T. It’s a year-defining track which should knock the competition “out like a light” at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.