Picks by Adam Lehrer
The Grammys get EVERYTHING wrong. A music award show is pointless and insulting and here’s why: There are far too many genres and way too many (great) records to decide which are the best. Television and film awards make sense because we all more or less watch the same movies and shows. There are good movies, bad movies, and award-winning inescapable gotta see movies. These categorizations don’t apply to music, making The Grammys a sickening display of evil corporate bastardization ignoring entire sub-cultures of music for quick monetary gain.
Though hip hop does have its big money makers that also create fantastic artwork, there are layers and layers of hip hop underground that just will not ever get noticed by an award show trying to sell Budweiser to fat Americans. Nevertheless, my nominees are such…
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE
Danny Brown featuring ScHoolboy Q – “Dope Fiend Rental”
Fat Tony – “Hood Party”
Ka – “Peace Akhi”
Kevin Gates – “Paper Chasers”
Big Sean featuring Jay Electronica and Kendrick Lamar – “Control”
Winner: This category infuriates me. What does it even mean? How well the rapper performed on the record? The delivery? The flow? The personality? For me, it’s dopest verse. And sorry, none of your bunk ass nominees match mine Mr. Grammy! A category heralding the best flows must include the maniacally delightful Danny Brown. His hyper diverse delivery is most evident on his collab with kindred spirit ScHoolBoy Q, freaking out on amphetamines and opiates through schizoid verbal attacks. Fat Tony’s Smart Ass Black Boy went under the radar in a bad way. Ka’s “Peace Akhi” best exemplified the sparse and moody flow of the new rap talent. Kevin Gates is a weird, weird rapper, which might explain the sweeping-under-the-rug of his excellent The Luca Brasi Story.
But the best? HELLLLOOOOOOOO KENDRICK FUCKING LAMAR ON BIG SEAN’s “CONTROL!” No verse set the Internet (aka the world) on fire like Kendrick’s in the song, declaring himself the King of New York, paying homage to the greats, and asserting himself as the best. “Control” may have been the most quintessentially hip hop moment all year.
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z – “Drunk in Love”
Blood Orange featuring Despot – “Clipped On”
Drake – “Wu Tang Forever”
Pusha T featuring Kelly Rowland – “Let Me Love you”
Earl Sweatshirt featuring Frank Ocean – “Sunday”
Winner: I refuse to acknowledge the existence of such an ineffectual and ludicrous category. To humor this pieces conceit though, I’m hoping these count. Blood Orange put out the majestic Cupid Deluxe and interestingly laid his own vocals in the background of much of the tracks, such as “Clipped On,” with rapped vocals from the next possible big thing, Queens-based rapper Despot. The most admirable thing about Drake is that as an accomplished rapper and singer he’s always worthy of this award, and the homage paid on “Wu Tang Forever” displays his rapping chops and his incredible moody vocals often in the same line.
Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z’s “Drunk in Love,” was one of the standout tracks from the dazzling Beyoncé. Her vocal performance on this track is ASTOUNDING. Sadly, the only part of this song that makes it up for this award — the Jay Z verse — is as dispensable as they come. That it still rises above this pack is a testament to Bey’s potency and effect.
BEST RAP SONG
Kanye West – “Blood on the Leaves”
Slim Thug ft. Big Sant and Big K.R.I.T. – “Just Chill”
2 Chainz – “Used 2”
Drake – “Worst Behavior”
A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar – “Fuckin Problems”
Winner: A few changes here. Sub in “Blood on the Leaves” for “New Slaves.” Also, scratch Macklemore, he’s terrible. Soon all shall know as much. I’m going to throw out a wildcard with Slim Thug’s “Just Chill.” Slim Thug was criminally underrated all year and this track was a standout from Boss Life. 2 Chainz’ “Used 2” was the best radio banger of all last year, throwbacks to Juvenile y’all! Drake’s “Worst Behavior” is an interesting track, different from his usual sonic attack but still a giant hit. And, I have to side with The Grammys much to my detriment. “Fuckin Problems” is a banger and should take home the prize here.
BEST RAP ALBUM
KA – The Night’s Gambit
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name
Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Dom Kennedy – Get Home Safely
Kanye West – Yeezus
Winner: The Grammys actually have three very deserving nominees here: Yeezus, Nothing Was The Same, and Good Kid M.A.A.D. City. But Kendrick dropped his album well before 2013 even happened and while the Drake record is fantastic, I don’t crave it nearly as much as I did Take Care.
Ka, meanwhile, is Nas 20 years ago, and I hope his momentum keeps swinging. Earl Sweatshirt is the most interesting member of Odd Future (aside from Frankie O, duh) and Doris established him as a zany rapper still very capable of wide commercial appeal. But Yeezus is the most adventurous album an artist in any medium made all last year. A rapper making an industrial funk album with hits on it? Fuggedabout it! He wins. He wins every time.
BEST RAPPER COLLABORATION
Danny Brown featuring SchoolBoy Q – “Dope Fiend Rental”
Ka featuring Roc Maricano – “Soap Box”
Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels”
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar “Nostelgia”
A$AP Rocky featuring Kendrick Lamar, Drake and 2 Chainz – “Fuckin Problems”
Winner: Danny Brown and ScHoolBoy Q make for a great opiate zonked team, edging on the weirder aspects of hard hitting hip hop and “Dope Fiend Rental” exemplifies the ways they compliment one another in that Raekwon/Ghostface sort of way. Another underrated duo is the unity of Ka and Roc Marciano, whose “Soap Box” finds the two doing their minimalist styles over some funky gangsta beats. El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the Jewels I more or less forgot about over the course of the year, finding the two’s individual solo records from 2012 a notch higher. Though, no one can deny that El-P’s Spider Jerusalem-esque future urban beats compliment Mike’s authoritative drawled out snarl. Also, I enjoy the interplay between Pusha T and Kendrick on “Nostelgia,” two rappers that both make streetwise meditative tracks but stretch them out into headier zones. And finally, “Fuckin Problems,” duh. That sone was a f-ing problem and really the best all around collaboration of the year. Make it two for Rocky.
BEST LOSE-CONTROL-AND-BECOME-SOMEBODY-YOUR-MOTHER-WOULN’T-RECOGNIZE-IN-A-LINE-UP SONG
Migos – “Pull Out”
2 Chainz – “Used 2”
Trinidad James – “Gold Everything”
Juicy J – “Money”
Kevin Gates – “Narcotrafficante”
Winner: First, 2 Chainz’ “Used 2” is the best head banger I heard all year. Trinidad Jame$ put out a fine record in 2013 with Don’t Be S.A.F.E., and in taking his banging tracks seriously, he has managed to develop quite a unique style. On “All Gold Everything” James declares he doesn’t fuck wit no snitches. Juicy J, who pretty much founded this sub-genre of hip hop, put out a fun track in which he declares his one true love; “Money.” Kevin Gates’s “Narco Trafficante,” takes coke rap to its next logical extreme. There should be nothing good about Migos, they take hip hop back a few steps if anything. But then again, power violence took punk back and that shit was the most viscerally amazing punk rock to ever come out, so maybe that’s why I can’t stop listening to “Pull Out.” The prize goes to Mr. Chainz, though, for a perfect Juvie send up.