Is it possible to experience shock and awe while in the midst of comfort and certainty? This question was posed, and answered, by the announcement of the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards nominees on Dec. 5. The rap genre is the definition of musical surprise, and nearly 40 years later it continues to give birth to artists from the depths of the unknown — keeping fans guessing with every album and single release and GRAMMY nomination.
It was comforting to see veterans such as Jay-Z and Kanye West garner nominations. These rappers refuse to rest on the laurels of their past successes; in fact, they continue to raise the bar. Nas' nomination for Best Rap Performance for his poignant single "Daughters" was a certainly worthy choice. Also nominated is Jay-Z and West's "N****s In Paris," which serves the dynamic duo on a bass-heavy plate of production guaranteed to make a man do the stanky leg on the subway … while the world watches.
The rap genre flexed its collective, creative energy through the nominees in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category. John Legend and Ludacris were nominated for "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)," a sexy, sultry jam with a dash of dirty south flow. Jay-Z returned twice in this category for a collaboration with West on "No Church In The Wild" featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream, and for "Talk That Talk" with Rihanna. Even a posthumous feature from Any Winehouse got in the mix with Nas on "Cherry Wine."
Then came the surprises — the nominations that blew me away. To see my hometown (Chicago) hero Lupe Fiasco nominated for Best Rap Album for Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 was unbelievable. I was also pleased to see the Roots nominated for Undun. Other nominees in the category included Drake's Take Care, Nas' Life Is Good, Rick Ross' God Forgives, I Don't, and 2 Chainz's Based On A T.R.U. Story.
Another pleasant surprise was Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb," which was nominated for Best Rap Song. His collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated soul sensation Miguel seemed to soar under the radar and land right on the nominations ballot.
And there's always room for the G.O.O.D. Music compilation with "Mercy" nominated for Best Rap Song, inviting West, Big Sean (Sean Anderson), Pusha T (Terrence Thornton), and 2 Chainz (Tauheed Epps) to the nominations party.
The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards nominations in the Rap Field demonstrate the flexibility, longevity and steadily evolving creativity of one of America's greatest original genres. Find out all the winners during the GRAMMY telecast on Feb. 10.