While most hip-hop fans agree that the Grammy Awards do not have as much influence on the genre as they once did, the buzz surrounding the nominees and winners persists.
The Grammys announced its five nominees for the award on Nov. 17, 2022, and the ceremony announcing the winner will be held on Feb. 23, 2023.
Future’s “I Never Liked You” is one of the five albums up for consideration. The Atlanta rapper’s ninth studio album was released in April of 2022 and is the first solo project Future has released since 2020. “I Never Liked You” has mainstream appeal and includes collaborations with Drake, Kanye West, Gunna, Lil Baby and more. “WAIT FOR U,” featuring Drake and Tems, is the highlight of the whole album. Future has built a reputation for songs about toxic relationships and tendencies, but this track has a softer vibe and a great beat.
Jack Harlow’s rise in the rap game happened remarkably quickly, and his sophomore album “Come Home the Kids Miss You” landed Harlow on the list of nominees. The hype leading up to Harlow’s album release was intense. It reached its peak when he posted a video of a snippet of the song “First Class,” which was later released as a single prior to the album. Generally, expectations from the public were not met by the album.
DJ Khaled put together another album full of collaborations with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and music in general. “GOD DID” earned him a spot on the list with help from the appearances from Jay-Z, 21 Savage, Drake and more.
Pusha T dropped another fantastic record called “It’s Almost Dry” in April 2022. Push’s style is different from that of any other album that is nominated. It is also his second album in a row to be nominated for a Grammy. “Daytona” was nominated for the same award in 2019.
Speaking of back-to-back nominations, Kendrick Lamar’s last four albums have now been nominated and his last two have won. This year it’s “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” that is nominated for Lamar.
Compared to previous years, this collection of nominees is less than impressive. Take a look at 2014, for example. Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same,” Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” Kanye West’s “Yeezus” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” were all nominated in the same year. All are classics and each would win if nominated this year. That being said, there are tiers that the current five nominees fall under. Two at the bottom, one in the middle and two at the top.
First, the bottom. “Come Home the Kids Miss You” was an album that had sky-high expectations. Harlow was one of the hottest names in the music industry and marketed himself incredibly well. The “First Class” snippet was the icing on the cake. It accumulated millions of views on social media, and excitement for the album was at an all-time high.
When the album was finally released, it disappointed. The themes were boring and nothing about the sound was particularly bold or interesting. It is a bit surprising to see this album earn a nomination, especially with all the other great music released this year.
In the same tier is DJ Khaled with “GOD DID.” If you have heard one DJ Khaled album, you’ve heard them all. Although the name recognition is there, most features sound like extras from the artists that didn’t make the cut on more important projects. It is also a bit jarring to hear new artists on nearly every song.
Luckily for Future, “I Never Liked You” is safely ahead of the two albums that were previously mentioned. While we should by no means mistake this for a classic, or even great album, it is solid and provides a much better listening experience.
“WAIT FOR U” and “PUFFIN ON ZOOTIEZ” are some of Future’s better songs. Both of these songs are great listens on their own, but they also fit within the flow of the album while simultaneously standing out.
Finally, the top two nominated albums are in a tier of their own, and earned their spots on the nomination list.
“It’s Almost Dry” is an underrated album and will benefit greatly in the future from being named to this list. People will be pleasantly surprised when they revisit this album or even listen for the first time.
Not many artists use samples more effectively than Pusha T. His ability to blend old sounds with new ones gives his music a high class feel. It is a breath of fresh air compared to many modern hip-hop albums, which is an interesting dichotomy because of the use of older genres in the background.
When Kendrick Lamar drops an album, the entire music industry listens. He transcends just hip-hop and has become a living legend. “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” is not his best project, but it is the best project on this list and has tons of replay value.
“Father Time” is one of Lamar’s best songs and better than any song on any other album that was nominated. Sampha is featured and he provides a strong chorus that exudes powerful and emotional energy.
Lamar talks deeply about his family and changing times on the track “Auntie Diaries” and “Mother I Sober.” Out of all the albums nominated, none compare to “Big Steppers” in terms of lyricism and story-telling.
The Grammy Award for best rap album of 2022 should go to “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers.” Lamar delivered yet another timeless album that will help define not only this era of hip-hop, but that of music in general.
If Lamar is crowned the winner, he will continue his stretch of best rap albums and pick up his third win. Each time he releases new music shockwaves are felt; you can be almost certain that his album will be a great one.