It’s that time of year again where we take a look at the Grammy Awards along with the nominees to win Best Rap Album in 2021. It’s hard to even fathom getting back to this point after such a turbulent 2020, including a worldwide pandemic and the most contentious Presidential election in U.S. history, but it’s also a reminder that life (and awards shows) go on no matter what else is going on.
The nominees in every category have already been announced, and it’s no surprise that there are already betting odds on who is favored to win. Before we go any further though let me give you the list of the best rap albums so you can see for yourself who is under consideration. Some of these names may surprise you, some may disappoint you, and a few may leave you scratching your head in utter confusion.
- D Smoke’s “Black Habits”
- Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist’s “Alfredo“
- Jay Electronica’s “A Written Testimony”
- Nas’ “King’s Disease“
- Royce Da 5’9″ “The Allegory“
D Smoke has risen incredibly fast to this position given he only won the Rhythm + Flow competition on Netflix a year ago. As such I freely admit we need to take a much closer look at him as an artist, although some people would be stunned someone so new got a nod over established veterans with an incredible album like Slug & MURS. On the other hand I can’t say I’m surprised to see Freddie Gibbs, Royce Da 5’9″ or Nas in this position — all three are incredibly well established and consistently release new material.
The most controversial of those three would be Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones simply based on the amount of feedback I got after “King’s Disease” came out. Some people believe Nas phoned this one in while others think he completely reinvented himself for a new decade. There’s very little middle ground on this one. Frankly I don’t think that it’s anywhere close to the best album in his entire catalogue, but given that Nas has more studio albums than most people last years in the rap game, he has the unenviable challenge of having to compete with HIMSELF time after time.
“Alfredo” is in my view the strongest contender of the nominees. Freddie Gibbs has a very matter-of-fact, no nonsense attitude paired with a killer vocal delivery and earworm raps that stick with you long after a song is done. All he needs to boost his Gary, Indiana profile to prominence is the right producer on the boards, which we’ve already seen him do before when he worked with Madlib on the certified rap classic “Pinata.” If we’re all being honest here The Alchemist deserves just as much credit as Gibbs, and he’s had an incredible 2020 in general.
In closing I think the thing that hurts Jay Electronica the most in this category is that a large portion of his audience is “over it” after he dropped his first mixtape back in 2007. I know the cliche is that “good things take time” but when it takes you well over a decade to release your first full length studio album, you’ve basically missed the boat, the train, the bus and the plane when it comes to living up to the hype. That’s my thoughts on the 2020 nominees for Best Rap Album though. What are yours?