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2023 Grammy Nominations: The Rap Recap

How does the music industry view this year in hip-hop? Join us for a rundown of this year’s rap Grammy nominations.

One of the most contentious annual traditions of the year and music has come and gone. The 2023 Grammy Award nominations were announced by the Recording Academy on Tuesday, and as always, the news brings joy to plenty of artists and fury to countless others. And as Grammy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told Boardroom, due to the subjective nature of music, there are no official criteria as to how the Academy’s voters are meant to go about judging nominees.

Particulary in light of the Grammy Awards’ often contentious, complicated relationship with hip-hop music and the artists who create it, that makes for some fascinating scenarios for discussion, criticism, and reading between the lines.

With that in mind, let’s talk the extent to which the voters got today’s 2023 rap Grammy nominations right across the four big hip-hop-centric categories.

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Best Rap Album Nominations

First and foremost, congratulations to all of the nominees.

Now that the niceties are out of the way, there are two very clear outliers here: Come Home the Kids Miss You and GOD DID.

Come Home the Kids Miss You
  • Artist: Jack Harlow
  • First week sales: 113,000
  • Highest-charting song: “First Class” (No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100)
GOD DID
  • Artist: DJ Khaled
  • First week sales: 107,500
  • Highest-charting song: “GOD DID” (No. 17 on Billboard Hot 100)

In no way are either of the two albums superior musical achievements to, for instance, Gunna’s DS4Ever, Vince Staples’ Ramona Park Broke My Heart, or JID’s The Forever Story. Even Saba’s Few Good Things or Chris Patrick’s X-Files would have felt more justified.

Jack Harlow has had an incredible rise to stardom, but Come Home the Kids Miss You is simply not his best offering. For its part, it’s arguable that GOD DID made more noise due to DJ Khaled’s comical social media antics ahead of its release than it actually did on our playlists or in bars, clubs, and parties across the globe.

I Never Liked You
  • Artist: Future
  • First week sales: 222,000
  • Highest-charting song: “Wait for U” (No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100)

At this point in his career, Future is playing 1-on-1 against himself. Does he have better projects than I Never Liked You? Yes. Does I Never Liked You still deserve a nomination? Yes. Two things can be true.

It’s Almost Dry
  • Artist: Pusha T
  • First week sales: 55,000
  • Highest-charting song: Neck & Wrist (No. 76 on Billboard Hot 100)

King Push’s It’s Almost Dry is another quality offering from the lyrical cocaine king, but that brings me to my next point…

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
  • Artist: Kendrick Lamar
  • First week sales: 295,500
  • Highest-charting song: N95 (No. 3 on Billboard Hot 100)

As it relates to this award, I would place an unhealthy amount of money on Kendrick walking away with the golden megaphone. Since losing to Macklemore in 2014, Lamar has not lost out on Best Rap Album whenever he’s been nominated. I don’t think that streak will come to an end next year.

Yes, this is all subjective. The subjective nature of music will forever cause endless debates as to what should and should not be nominated when awards season roles around — but JID, Vince Staples, and Gunna all striking out in this category just doesn’t add all the way up.

Best Rap Song Nominations

Quite the interesting list of songs earned a Grammy nomination here. I’m not mad at any of the nominees.

“Churchill Downs”
  • Artist: Jack Harlow feat. Drake
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 23

I’m of the mindset that “Churchill Downs” is nominated because Drake gave Jack Harlow a top 10 Drizzy feature verse ever. Comparing Drizzy’s verse to Harlow’s is like comparing seasoned food to unseasoned food.

“The Heart Part 5”
  • Artist: Kendrick Lamar
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100

It’s a bit surprising that “The Heart Part 5” was the pick over a song like “N95.” The former is a more personal and a deeply touching song in opposition to the thunder-like thumping of the latter.

“WAIT FOR U”
  • Artist: Future feat. Drake & Tems
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 1

I don’t have an ill word to say about “WAIT FOR U” earning a nomination. There’s no question that it deserves the nod.

“GOD DID”
  • Artist: DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend, & Fridayy
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 17

This one doesn’t make it into my personal list of Best Rap Songs. I enjoyed the record the first time it played; I haven’t played it from start to finish since then. Jay-Z washed his competition, the chorus is cool, and that’s all I remember strongly from this eight-minute endeavor of a song.

“Pushin P”
  • Artist: Gunna & Future feat. Young Thug
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 7

“Pushin P” is the titan among these nominees. The record is a worthy nominee and is a compelling pick to win in February.

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Best Melodic Rap Performance Nominations

“Beautiful”
  • Artist: DJ Khaled feat. Future and SZA
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 29

By no means I am not trying to tear down DJ Khaled’s musical efforts — but I believe there are more deserving records. “You & Me” by Gunna and ChloĆ« would have been a superior selection. In this specific category, it’s clear voters enjoyed this song regardless of its charting position, as every other song was top-five on the Billboard Hot 100. In any event, someone tell Punch that we are more than ready for SZA’s new album.

“WAIT FOR U”
  • Artist: Future feat. Drake & Tems
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 1

For what it’s worth, I heard “WAIT FOR U” on TikTok and on a number of other short-form videos more than probably any other song this year. A very easy selection.

“First Class”
  • Artist: Jack Harlow
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 1

“First Class” was a hit the moment Jack Harlow teased it, and it remains a singalong song no matter how you slice it. It’s catchier than a fast food jingle.

“Die Hard”
  • Artist: Kendrick Lamar feat. Blxst & Amanda Reifer
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 5
  • I won’t lie, this is my favorite song of this bunch, but I’ll be shocked if it wins (and I’m not sure it should).
“Big Energy (Live)”
  • Artist: Latto
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 3

I was surprised to see “Big Energy” nominated, but I am elated for Latto because it’s always an unfairly uphill battle for women to get nominated for rap Grammys.

She deserves an upset W, but I think Best Melodic Rap Performance will come down to “First Class” and “WAIT FOR U,” and my guess is that Harlow prevails.

Best Rap Performance Nominations

Now here is an award for which I have no idea what will win. This list of nominees has every flavor of rap within it.

“GOD DID”
  • Artist: DJ Khaled feat. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend, & Fridayy
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 29

Yes, it’s a recurring theme: all the DJ Khaled Grammy love comes as something of a head-scratcher. “GOD DID” is a good song and Hov gave us one of the best verses of the year, but a major nod like this calls for an extra bit of special something that isn’t really there.

“Vegas”
  • Artist: Doja Cat
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 10

On just about any list, “Vegas” would reign as the catchiest song of the bunch. The Los Angeles-born Doja Cat has a knack for creating songs that require repeat listens.

“Pushin P”
  • Artist: Gunna & Future feat. Young Thug
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 7

Regarding “Pushin P,” well, that song deserves every nomination it receives. The record was everywhere at the beginning of the year and it’s proven to have staying power.

“The Heart Part 5”
  • Artist: Kendrick Lamar
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 5

Again, I’m surprised “The Heart Part 5” would be nominated over “N95” — in the past, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy nominations have generally gone to some of his biggest radio or streaming hits. Opting for “The Heart Part 5” in this case would be like “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “Mortal Man,” or “Duckworth” getting a similar nod over more commercially impactful cuts.

“F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
  • Artist: GloRilla & Hitkidd
  • Peak on Billboard Hot 100: No. 42

Easily the most shocking rap nomination of them all. I thought this record was merely an anthem in the streets and on social media. To see it get a nomination is really dope.

I would like to see GloRilla and Hitkidd take home the award, but I’ll back “Pushin P” to snag it.

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