2016 has been a big year for rap music and its purveyors: Drake made history; Chance changed the rules; Kanye caused controversy; Kendrick turned B-sides into brilliance; Young Thug challenged gender norms; legends made long-awaited comebacks; and your fave did something else we're failing to mention. And while REVOLT has surely recognized all these efforts and accomplishments, it's that of the Grammys that matters most.
Today, the Recording Academy today announced the nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards and, for those who dabble in the rap industry, they've got four genre-specific categories to make their mark. Below, the REVOLT staff picks the artists who deserve the biggest bragging rights — until 2018, that is. Let's get ready to rumble!
BEST RAP ALBUM: Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper | And The Anonymous Nobody, De La Soul | Major Key, DJ Khaled | Views, Drake | Blank Face LP, ScHoolboy Q | The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
Coloring Book changed the game, not just for rap albums, but period. On this project, Chano spoke to God in public, making an unapologetic album that is so gospel-influenced the haters say it shouldn't be called rap. That's unfair; it's simply his truth. And who says rap has to stay in a box? Chance challenges the norms of black male masculinity in the genre by emoting pure joy and positivity. He puts on for his city and his baby mama. He comes of age and realizes "what booties can do." He goes from church to the juke jam to the skating rink. And he does it on his own terms.—Driadonna Roland
I really, truly fear angering Kanye after the last few months he's had, but maybe there's less of a chance he'll storm the stage in retaliation if the award he probably believes rightfully belongs to him goes to a fellow Chicagoan and friend. Because Chance the Rapper deserves this. I described Coloring Book as the Chance Trance. As guerrilla gospel. I, and everyone else, took note of its anthemic and inspirational qualities that were smartly spliced with secular radio-readies. I recognized that, considering how unapologetically joyful Chano is, the inabiliy to feel bad after hearing it in its entirety felt calculated.—Danielle Cheesman
Word to J. Cole, Kanye West dropped a “half-ass” album in The Life of Pablo, but that’s this writer’s opinion. While it was genius in execution, the product itself was a mess — save for “Ultralight Beam.” But that’s neither here nor there. As Ye went left, other Grammy rap contenders like ScHoolboy Q went right, delivering what can arguably be considered the year’s best gangsta rap album in Black Face LP. But while each of these albums deserve a shot at the honor, including DJ Khaled’s breakout release Major Key and Drake’s colossal Views, Chance the Rapper is a clear winner. On Coloring Book, Chano filled in the blanks and created an opus as colorful as a box of Legos. And like Legos, he built a vibrant creation that exuded nothing less than ultralight beams, juke jams and blessings on blessings. — RB
Best Rap Album winner: Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
BEST RAP SONG: "All The Way Up," Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. French Montana and Infared | "Famous," Kanye West feat. Rihanna | "Hotline Bling," Drake | "No Problem," Chance The Rapper feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz | "Ultralight Beam," Kanye West feat. Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin and The-Dream
This award honors the songwriter(s).
You'd be hardpressed to find anyone, including his fellow artists, who was not bitten by the "Hotline Bling." But let's be honest with ourselves: that was not a rap song. He wore a turtleneck, for goodness sake. He awkwardly salsa danced. And there's a reason that the likes of those who covered it were singers, guys: Kehlani, Alessia Cara, Erykah Badu. Plus, it was released in 2015 and it's always weird to accept an award two years later. So let's revisit what appears obvious and hand this over to "No Problem" because this award is about songwriting and you can't deny that each man delivered stellar verses: "If one more label try to stop me / It's gon' be some dreadhead niggas in ya lobby"; "Aye, aye, captain / I'm high, captain / I'm so high / Me and God dappin'"; "I got problems bigger than these boys / My deposits, they be on steroids." Quotables for days, hashtags on a hundred.—DC
Remy Ma's return filled me with pride, Drake launched himself into the zeitgeist with "Hotline Bling," and Chance's "No Problem" became my personal anthem. But "Ultralight Beam" moved me to tears. As someone who stopped believing in Kanye long ago, the hype around TLOP slowly pulled me in, and the opening number punched me in the gut. It is a masterpiece with many moving parts in perfect accord, from Kelly Price's powerhouse vocals, to the tangible lyrics, to Chance's verses that serve as prose, praise, and prayer.—DR
For a song that didn't top the Hot 100, Chance the Rapper’s "No Problem" was as ubiquitous, on and beyond the airwaves, as all the other records that graced the coveted top spot on the Billboard chart. It was audio theater — starring Chance as conductor, while co-stars Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz deliver scene-stealing performances. All in all, the Coloring Book standout went from being Chano’s ultimatum to the recording industry ("If one more label try to stop me/It’s gon’ be some dreadhead niggas in your lobby") to everyone’s personal anthem. This much was felt via the all-star music video to stages like on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and festivals across the nation. Aside from Drake’s epic lap, when we talk about 2016, the Year in Chance the Rapper deserves acknowledgment and "No Problem" — at this point — is the theme song behind this fact. — Ralph Bristout
Best Rap Song winner: Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne "No Problem"
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE: "All The Way Up," Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. French Montana and Infared | "No Problem," Chance The Rapper feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz | "Panda," Desiigner | "Pop Style," Drake feat. The Throne | "That Part," ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West
This award honors the recording artist(s).
If I based this pick off personal preference, "THat Part" got the most replays from me, but you can't deny the massive reach that was the phenomenon of "Panda." Never has a song so erratic and unintelligible found such understanding...or unified otherwise unrelated parties.—DC
"Panda" rallied a generation. Did you think it was a Future song at first? A lot of people did, but the eerie similarities didn't matter. Through sheer force it bubbled its way up from the underground to Kanye West's ears and put all eyes on young Desiigner.—DR
"Panda" saw Desiigner go from Future-soundalike to G.O.O.D. Music savior, giving the label its first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in over two years (since 2014's "All of Me" by John Legend). Fat Joe, Remy Ma and French Montana brought the Big Apple back and sent it "all the way up" on the charts, while Chance the Rapper ensured he was not to be messed with on "No Problem." All viable contenders, the Best Rap Performance nod can go to anyone of these records seeing as how they each played a pivotal role in shifting the careers of the stars behind them. However, the one track that everyone should be paying attention to is "Pop Style." As we all know, Drake dropped “Pop Style” and “One Dance” (an obvious snub from this years nominations) as the first pair of singles for Views, and in its debut the former featured surprise appearances from Kanye West and Jay Z, otherwise known as The Throne. Since its release, the song stirred quite the controversy. Now, eight months after its arrival, we have a Grammy nod not just for the single itself, but for its co-stars Jay Z, and his two bar (just 18 words long) "verse," and Mr. West. The relationship between these three have been very rocky under the public eye as of late, which makes this potential Grammy win all the more interesting. To be honest, I just want to see Hov get a Grammy for half a bar Jay Z laugh —RB
Best Rap Performance winner: Desiigner "Panda"
BEST RAP/SUNG PERFORMANCE: "Broccoli," D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty | "Famous," Kanye West feat. Rihanna | "Freedom," Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar | "Hotline Bling," Drake | "Ultralight Beam," Kanye West feat. Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream
This one should go to "Hotline Bling," easily. Drake rap-sings an experience we've all gone through; an old flame getting brand new on you. In a Cosby sweater, he dad-danced his way into our hearts, radios, TV screens, laptops, etc., giving us some easy listening with a little "cha cha" flair. It signaled the takeover; revenge season was upon us.—DR
Let me be clear, my pick goes to "Ultralight Beam" because Kanye took us to church in a way that only the Old Kanye knew how to do, but since votes for him will likely split as he's nominated twice within this same category (resulting in numbers too low to win either of them) and despite my desire to see Taylor Swift's face as he accepts the award for their point of public contention ("Famous)," Drake will likely win because he raps! He sings! And that's what this award is calling for.—DC
Kanye's "Ultralight Beam" is pound for pound, the best rap/sung performance of the year — nothing compares. It's both the perfect precursor to Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book and arguably the greatest record put together by 'Ye in recent memory. Going to church, G.O.O.D. maestro enlists a star-studded choir and together they whisk away listeners to the highest mountain for one everlasting sermon. Preach.—RB
Best Rap/Sung Performance winner: Kanye West ft. Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream "Ultralight Beam"