Is Hip-Hop Finally About to Have Its Grammy Moment?

The nominees are in for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, and amid the usual standbys and typical arguments about whether or not the award has lost true cultural capital, it's clear who the early winner is: hip-hop. 

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The nominees are in for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, and amid the usual standbys and typical arguments about whether or not the award has lost true cultural capital, it seems clear who the early winner is: hip-hop.

For the sixth year, the golden gramophone threw a primetime special announcing this year's nominees, and the leaders are atypical for an award show oft-criticized for getting it wrong on hip-hop. Elder statesman Jay Z earned nine nods, while Drake, who as you may recall started from the bottom, has four; rap wunderkind Kendrick Lamar got seven, while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis earned nods for three of the top four categories. (If the coronation of the Seattle duo as "Best New Artist" feels inevitable, but belated, it's probably because it is: Their ubiquitous breakout hit "Thrift Shop" came out in August of 2012.)

It's long been a frustration for a still "young" genre; hip-hop culture has become pop culture, now more than ever. It took until 1989 for the Grammys to even acknowledge the genre, and since then, rap has been largely marginalized to its own categories, taking home two awards for Album of the Year in Grammy history. (Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill and Outkast's most obvious crossover effort, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. ) Emcees have long railed against this perceived lack of respect. "I never let a statue tell me how nice I am," rapped Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, while 50 Cent famously strode on stage when Evanescence beat him out for Best New Artist in 2004.

But this year, hip-hop's got a real shot of taking home major loot, especially in the big four categories: Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar made this year's Album of the Year cut. And considering one of this year's entries is surprise underdog Sara Bareilles - a nice story, but unlikely to move beyond surprise nominee - there's a 50-50 shot of rewarding one of the pair of critical darlings, despite legitimate challenges from Daft Punk and Taylor Swift. (And here's hoping it goes to King Kendrick, if for nothing more than an incredible and prolific year.)

Still, as ever, the Grammys made some controversial decisions. Robin Thicke's hit "Blurred Lines," which wormed into ears and dominated headlines all summer for its graphic music video and for being "rapey," is up for Record of the Year. Rolling Stone contributing editor Rob Sheffield has already come out against it, calling it the year's worst song even on purely musical grounds:

I guess the year's not over yet so it's theoretically possible a worse contender could emerge, but I don't see it happening. Let me put it this way: Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey could pay their holiday respects to Lou Reed with a duet medley of "The Black Angel's Death Song"/"O Little Town of Bethlehem" and it would still be a distant second.

Most obvious major snubs include sister act HAIM, whose hit song inspired by this very website has made fans of listeners and critics alike; Janelle Monae, whose funky Prince-approved record didn't even make the Best R&B Album category; Kanye West, whose complex and wildly hyped Yeezus was recognized in only the rap categories; Lorde, who snatched major nominations but, oddly, not Best New Artist; the social wrecking ball that is Miley Cyrus; and Justin Timberlake, who was expected by many to sweep up, but walked away with just seven nominations and was shut out of the big three.

The 56th annual Grammy Awards will air live on CBS on January 26, 2014. The nominees in the major categories are below, but you can read the full list of awards and contenders at

Record of the Year

Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"
Imagine Dragons - "Radioactive"
Lorde- "Royals"
Bruno Mars - "Locked Out of Heaven"
Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell Williams and T.I.  - "Blurred Lines"

Album of the Year

Sara Bareilles - The Blessed Unrest
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City 
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
Taylor Swift - Red

Best New Artist

James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Casey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

Song of the Year

Pink feat. Nate Ruess - "Just Give Me A Reason"
Bruno Mars - "Locked Out Of Heaven"
Katy Perry - "Roar"
Lorde - "Royals" 
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert - "Same Love"

Best Pop Vocal Album

Lana Del Rey - Paradise
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox
Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience - The Complete Experience

Best Rock Album

Black Sabbath - 13
David Bowie - The Next Day
Kings Of Leon - Mechanical Bull
Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day
Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork 
Neil Young With Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill

Best R&B Album

Faith Evans - R&B Divas 
Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire 
John Legend - Love In The Future
Chrisette Michele - Better 
Three Kings - TGT

Best Rap Album

Drake - Nothing Was The Same
Jay Z - Magna Carta ... Holy Grail
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
Kanye West - Yeezus Ross - God Forgives, I Don’t
2 Chainz - Based On A T.R.U. Story

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.