Rap music now reaches nearly every demographic with its mainstream appeal. From Bentley coupes and mansions to the gritty streets and electric nightclubs of the inner-city — rap music is a virtual one-stop shop. This year's GRAMMY nominees embody the spirit of rap music's versatility. The roster of veterans and emerging talent represents more than 50 years of combined excellence on the microphone.
Jay-Z's release of "D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)" ignited a music scene submerged in a sea of Auto-Tune-laden songs. With his braggadocio rhyme skills and an incredible track produced by No I.D., "D.O.A." was the lead single for Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 album and gained him two GRAMMY nominations. On top of his singular efforts, Jay-Z is also nominated with Fabolous for "Money Goes, Honey Stay" as well as Rihanna and Kanye West for "Run This Town."
Since 1992, Common has evolved from an MC to Hollywood actor and community activist — all while continuing to strengthen his musical prowess with Universal Mind Control, nominated for Best Rap Album. With infectious club bangers and colorful wordplay, Universal Mind Control is highly palatable for the commercial ear while maintaining genuine street credibility. In 2009, Common sought to kill the "bling" that has dominated the rap scene with his brand of dapper sophistication, coupled with his soaring, impeccable flow.
Newcomers like Drake have also earned a seat at the GRAMMY table. The Canadian rapper spent 2009 collaborating with superstars Mary J. Blige and Lil Wayne, but his "Best I Ever Had" solo effort has him contending for Best Rap Song. Flo Rida released R.O.O.T.S. last March, sparking a whirlwind of success that landed him a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Album among veterans such as Eminem, Mos Def and Q-Tip (from A Tribe Called Quest), who have contributed to their extensive catalogs with GRAMMY-worthy compositions.
This year's Rap Field has come full circle, presenting a multi-faceted view of past, present and future artists whose talents have commanded a timeless appeal to the masses. No matter who wins, 2009 is when rap galvanized its place in music history with a powerful blend of longevity, innovation and passion that transcends gender, race, socioeconomic status, and geography. It is a global phenomenon that is here to stay.