CARAMANICA The truth is that there is a whole level of success for a musician that has little to do with radio play, streaming success, album sales or touring scale. It is about being seen as the sort of musician that other musicians respect. (No idea if this is lucrative!) Black Pumas and Collier fit in here. And D Smoke might seem like a total outlier, but in this context, he’s not: His brother is SiR, a singer who’s signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, known as the home of Kendrick Lamar. In a(nother) year with no Kendrick album, D Smoke is a familiar alternative, and a reminder of the sorts of music — hip-hop included — that Grammy voters tend to favor: earnest, technique-driven, either shopworn or fine-tuned depending on your lens. That’s made manifest in the best rap album category (D Smoke, Nas, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Electronica and Royce Da 5’9”). If you teleported those albums (many of which I love) back to the mid-1990s and slipped them into the Walkmen of the Carhartt-and-Timbs-wearing fans of that era, they likely wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
That said, it is notable that there are no hip-hop producers in the producer of the year category, likely because Grammy voters don’t bother investigating young producers like Jetsonmade, responsible for so many DaBaby hits and also Jack Harlow’s “Whats Poppin,” or even give thought to the Alchemist, who has become the go-to beatsmith for modern-day golden-age revivalists, and in the last two years has released strong projects with Freddie Gibbs, Boldy James, Conway the Machine and Action Bronson.
COSCARELLI I really did think we were going to see a push for two of the posthumous releases that dominated streaming, “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” by Pop Smoke and “Legends Never Die” by Juice WRLD, neither of which was even nominated for best rap album. Pop Smoke, who I naïvely thought had a shot at best new artist, is represented through a single nomination, best rap performance for “Dior.” Lil Baby’s “My Turn” and Roddy Ricch’s “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial” were also left out, though each got nominated for songs, with “The Bigger Picture,” Lil Baby’s Black Lives Matter protest song, earning two nominations and “The Box” getting three.
To pull back for a moment, we should issue our usual caveat: These, of course, are just the nominations, so it’s possible that Swift, Eilish and Beyoncé could sweep most of the major awards and leave this all feeling pretty Grammys-typical when all is said and done.