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If The Grammys Knew A Single Thing About Rap

If The Grammys Knew A Single Thing About Rap


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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Picks by Kevin Cortez


Flatbush Zombies – “MRAZ”
Run the Jewels – “A Christmas Fuckin’ Miracle”
Chance the Rapper ft. Nate Fox and Lil K – “Pusha Man”
Pusha T – “King Push”
Action Bronson – “Pepe Lopez”

Winner: Run the Jewels dropped one of the dopest albums of 2013, with El-P and Killer Mike literally having fun and bouncing lyrics off each hardcore beat dropped. Every single track was a force field with the mantra “Don’t fucking fuck with us” echoing back. But on the very last track of the album, “A Christmas Fuckin’ Miracle,” the duo got super serious and dropped some high-grade truth; deep ass shit about their childhood, upbringing, and motivation to keep in the rap game. They reign realness all over uplifting Christmas bells and deep synths, pretty much writing their miracles and existing as modern day underground legends. Like if Scrooge and the Grinch started robbing clowns in broad day light.


Drake featuring Majid Jordan – “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Drake featuring Sampha – “Too Much”
Pusha T featuring Chris Brown – “Sweet Serenade”
Tyler, the Creator featuring Pharrell Williams – “IFHY”
Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson – “Bound 2”

Winner: Yo, I really don’t like Drake that much, but I can’t deny the absolute power Drake and Sampha have together on “Too Much.” The way Sampha croons all over that piano is a thing a beauty and really make really makes the track a contender for best encapsulation of Drake’s style and direction. It’s ballad, layering the stress and success of Drake’s commercial and family life. Cue Sampha’s sweet serenading lyrics: “Don’t think about it too much,” and you’ve got the best rap/sung collaborations of 2013.


Pusha T – “Numbers On The Boards”
Eminem – “Bad Guy”
Kanye West – “New Slaves”
Kendrick Lamar – “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Drake featuring Jay Z – “Pound Cake”

Winner: “New Slaves” is one of the best written songs of 2013, hands down. Look at powerhouse of folks behind it: Ben Bronfman (who previously helped West with “Monster”), Rhymefest (who helped West with “Jesus Walks,” which also won a Grammy), Frank Ocean, the incredible poet Malik Yusef, Cyhi the Prynce, Travi$ Scott, Elon Rutberg (who helped wrote the Cruel Summer film), Mike Dean, and a couple of other dudes I don’t really know. All these men combined their efforts to create something controversial, powerful, and never officially released as a single. People know “New Slaves” regardless, though it may seem a bit foreign for a mainstream artist to release, that aids in its pioneering ability and ambition.


Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Drake – Nothing Was the Same
Kanye West – Yeezus
Danny Brown – Old
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels

Winner: Alright, as much as I really would like to say Danny Brown’s Old should win best rap album, Kendrick Lamar needs to grab a Grammy. He missed 2012’s deadline and Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is the greatest and one of most important hip hop albums of the last decade. (*Look at crowd all bug-eyed and shit*) It’s a goddamn record, from front to back. It tells a story, it’s cohesive; every hook, sample, backing vocal, and verse was extremely well-thought out and grand, and overall, the entire album plays as a record that is almost impossible to stop once it has begun.

Overrated? Maybe at this point in time, but the absolute least that should happen for Kendrick is a Grammy win. No excuses, no substitutes. If Macklemore and Ryan Lewis end up taking the Grammy, the award will have officially lost meaning. Just remember, whether you hate or love the award ceremony, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences created this category to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” If every music critic, rapper, and music aficiano has awknowledged the importance and talent put into Kendrick’s debut effort, why can’t the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences do the same?


Big Sean featuring Jay Electronic and Kendrick Lamar – “Control”
Earl Sweatshirt featuring Vince Staples – “Hive”
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Nosetalgia”
Danny Brown featuring Freddie Gibbs – “The Return”
ASAP Rocky featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. – “1 Train”

Winner: After Good Kid, M.A.A.D. dropped Kendrick Lamar unleashed a whole slew of incredible features. Can’t front like he didn’t — some of the best verses of 2013 came from Lamar on other people’s songs. Pusha T had the best chemistry with K. Dot on “Nosetalgia,” and I doubt that’s even a debatable claim. Let’s face it: You probably can’t even drop a quote from Jay Electronica’s verse on “Control.” Half of “1 Train,” featured some of the weaker verses from all the emcees (don’t get me wrong, they’re still REALLY fucking hard verses). But what song of 2013 had the PERFECT blend of emcees on one topic, creating a conhesive and quotable anthem? Pusha T’s “Nosetalgia,” with both Kendrick and Push painting vivid pictures of selling coke, hustling, and the true grit and realism of the streets.


A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky – “Shabba”
Danny Brown – “Side B (Dope Song)”
Migos featuring Drake – “Versace (Remix)”
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky, French Montana, SchoolBoy Q, and Trinidad Jame$ – “Work (Remix)”
Ace Hood featuring Future and Rick Ross – “Bugatti”

Winner: A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord had a lot of bass-ridden beats, banging hard in the trunk and harder at shows. “Shabba” is that one staple that stands out as the go to “I-wanna-party-and-hit-people,” kinda songs. It fucking knocks, no doubt, and it’s super catchy, so you can rap alongside Ferg within a single listen of the track. In fact, tell me you’re not singing it right now in your head.

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