I’ve been working on this article for a while, so excuse me if it’s late.
As we all know, the Grammy for ‘Best Rap Album’ went to Drake for Take Care at this year’s Grammys Award Show. I think Take Care deserved the award, but many think otherwise. The name being tossed around for who the true winner should be is Nas for his 10th studio album, Life Is Good. Many people are up in arms over this decision so I figured I’d give my opinion. Well, in order to tackle this conundrum, we must first know the nominees. So here they are:
Drake- Take Care
Nas- Life Is Good
Lupe Fiasco- Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1
Rick Ross- God Forgives, I Don’t
2 Chainz- Based On A T.R.U. Story
The Roots- Undun
Now most of you are probably thinking the same thing as me: why in the world were 2 Chainz and Rick Ross nominated for this award?? No? Well, let me explain why you should think that.
Why Were They Even Nominated?!
2 Chainz- Based On A T.R.U. Story- Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of 2 Chainz. He’s been in the game for a long time, did a complete overhaul of his rap career, changed his name, and skyrocketed into the mainstream. I’m against everything 2 Chainz raps about, but I still listen to his music. Why? He’s goofy. He says ridiculous things in his rhymes, he dances weird, his flow is interesting, he’s energetic and that’s why I keep tuning in. I just want to see what crazy thing he’s going to say or do next. He’s got punchlines for days, but lyrically he doesn’t say much at all. His flows are simple. His rhyme schemes are even simpler. Hooks like “Started from the trap, now I rap. No matter where I’m at, I got crack” or “I got a lust for the cream, I need a money machine. I need a money machine, I need a money machine.” His album was full of songs centered around the same themes everyone MUST be getting tired of: money, drugs, strippers. Now I can’t deny the success of his hit singles “No Lie” and “Birthday Song” and with features from Drake and Kanye West, respectively, it’s hard to miss. They were catchy and perfect to get you hyped for any situation, but were any of his songs so amazing and so unique that they deserved a Grammy? No. Now will I listen to his next album? Yup, for all the reasons I listed above, but I highly doubt Mr. Epps will make an album that really deserves a Grammy for the rest of his career.
Rick Ross- God Forgives, I Don’t- Ahh Rick Ross. The rapper many fans of the game love to hate. I’m always off and on with Rozay. He represents everything in hip-hop that I don’t really mess with. He raps about the same things as everyone else: money, clothes, cars, sex, drugs. Yeah, I get it. But, at the same time, I dig his energy. Rick Ross can make any party bump. His music is addicting. God Forgives, I Don’t, however, didn’t do enough for me to endorse it. I didn’t hate the album. Absolutely not. I just don’t think he did enough to get nominated for this award. GF, ID followed the same blueprint as all of Rick Ross’ other albums. There were plenty of BANGERS, songs with heavy beats that Ross dominated with his typical flow. Nothing he did was out of the box. If anything, GF, ID was 2010’s Teflon Don with 2012 swag. There were features from artists who are hot right now to round out his familiar verses. He even did the same thing he did on Teflon Don with his tracks “Hold Me Back” and “911.” They’re pretty much the same beat…and “911” comes right after “Hold Me Back.” There’s not even an attempt to hide it! He did the same thing in 2010 with “MC Hammer” and “BMF (Blowin Money Fast).” You could put all four songs right after each other and you’d only notice a few changes in the beat. Ross is a great MC, there’s no doubt about that, but he doesn’t change much. Why should he? He makes bank with the system he’s got now. My point is: Although Ross is energetic and knows how to control a song, he isn’t that lyrical, he barely gets introspective in his verses, and lots of his verses on GF, ID are interchangeable and forgettable. His system may work, but I don’t believe, by any means, that he crafted a Grammy-winning album in God Forgives, I Don’t.
The Honorable Mentions
Now in this section, I will talk about how I think every nominee deserved their nomination and how I felt about their album, in general.
Lupe Fiasco- Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1- Lupe Fiasco. We’ve waited for an album that rivals Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor or The Cool for years. We were all disappointed with Lasers; we thought Lupe had gone mainstream. He did, whether it was his fault, or Atlantic Records’. Then there came The Great American Rap Album, Part 1. The singles started pouring in: “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)”, “Bitch Bad”, “Lamborghini Angels”. They all featured the Lupe we missed, the one rapping his ass off over some NICE beats. F&L II made us believe that the Lupe we wished for had returned exactly when we asked him to. I wasn’t as easily impressed. About 40% into the album, I thought it took a very boring leap downwards. Lupe was more preachy than usual. The filler, pop songs reappeared. I began to lose interest very quickly and began to wish I had popped in Kendrick’s album first. (I got F&L II a month late lol) In the words of my girlfriend, “It’s everything bad about the world presented in the most dull manner with shrill pop songs in between.” I wholeheartedly agree. Now, I’ve got the songs I bump all the time in “Strange Fruition”, “Brave Heart”, and “ITAL (Roses).” But, I almost can’t tell you what “Unforgivable Youth”, “Cold War”, or “How Dare You” sound like. Filler, pop-like songs that you probably won’t remember a day later. I love Lupe and I wanted more than anything for this album to be a reincarnation of its title predecessor, but it just wasn’t. If anything, though, it was close. The Lupe we know isn’t dead. This album was the closest thing we’d gotten to that Lupe in years, so I’ll take it, but I do expect better.
The Roots- Undun- Undun was an amazing Roots album; it seemed different from what we’re used to from them. The concept behind it was that it told the story of Redford Stevens, a man who lived the life of the streets until it eventually caught up with him. The story is, interestingly enough, told in reverse. Undun was a musically beautiful album. 5 of the 14 tracks contain no lyrics, just beautiful instrumentation and 4 of those tracks are the last four tracks of the album. This album isn’t as upbeat as The Roots’ other albums. It’s slow, more melodic, not much rapping, etc. Lyrically, it’s what I like to see. They crafted a wonderful story that was filled with introspective verses with a needed message intertwined within. I just think, at times, it was a little too slow. It deserved every bit of that Grammy nomination. Take Care and Life Is Good, however, just brought more.
And Then There Were Two…
Drake’s Take Care and Nas’ Life Is Good. Two great albums, but only one went home with the award.
Life Is Good was an album that allowed us to see that Nas still had it. He hadn’t released a solo studio album in four years, since his 2008 Untitled album. Everyone wondered if he still had what it takes, especially after such a hiatus. Nas brought it with this album. It was a cohesive, introspective album. It had so many sides to it. There was Nas, the storyteller. Tracks like “A Queens Story” and “Back When” feature Nas transporting us to his world ever so smoothly. There were songs that were just musically…touching. The instrumentation in “Stay” and “Roses” from the deluxe edition were beautiful. There was introspective, reflective Nas with “Daughters” and “World’s An Addiction.” There were even surprises like Amy Winehouse’s feature on “Cherry Wine” and the Kirk Franklin sample on “No Introduction.” Most of the features played their parts amazingly, e.g., Nikki Flores, Victoria Monet, and Anthony Hamilton. So, for an album that had so much right with it, what was wrong? Well, Life Is Good, lacked the mainstream tracks that would carry on the radio. Personally, I don’t believe that albums need that to be a successful album, but such is the society we live in. “Daughters” got decent airplay, but it wasn’t really enough. The songs that could have been decent on the radio, “Summer On Smash” and maybe “Reach Out,” weren’t that good. I thought “Nasty” and “The Don” were just alright and I was NOT a fan of the Rick Ross-assisted “Accident Murderers.” Life Is Good wasn’t perfect, but it was an album that showed that Nas still had it. He continued his dominance as one of the greatest storytellers and lyricists of our time. And I STILL think Take Care was better. Here’s why.
Take Care was an album that saw Drake heading back to his hometown of Toronto. Drake introduced a particular sound to us in his most popular mixtape, So Far Gone. He expressed his emotions, feelings, everything he had through melodic songs that were as vulnerable as his verses. His debut album, Thank Me Later, didn’t bring that as much. But, Drake made Take Care in Toronto to revisit the sound he introduced us to in So Far Gone, the sound we grew to love him for. Take Care gave us a look at a Drake who was much more confident about his abilities. His sound was perfected and he gave us everything we wanted in a Drake album. This album had vulnerable lyrics, mainstream hits, amazing features, wonderful beats, and much more. But, this album gave us something that we didn’t get to see much of in his previous projects: Drake seriously rapping. Drake is an amazing rapper. He’s got a great flow, a great understanding of rap, and he can spit BARS. The intro song, “Over My Dead Body”, “Underground Kings”, and “Lord Knows” show us that Drake can spit with the best of them. I can’t even forget to mention that the final track “The Ride” is some of Drake’s best rapping ever. The features on Take Care were amazing, for the most part. Kendrick Lamar delivered a spectacular verse on “Buried Alive Interlude.” Rihanna and The Weeknd complemented Drake perfectly on their respective songs. Rick Ross spit his best verse of the year on “Lord Knows.” Andre 3000 wowed us, as usual. The list keeps going. The album came with a couple surprises in a harmonica feature from Stevie Wonder and a cover/remaking of Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” in “Practice.” The reflective, vulnerable verses were in abundance in Take Care. He stunted on his exes in “Shot For Me.” He was in stripper-saving mode in “The Real Her.” My favorite song from the album is the stripped down “Look What You’ve Done” where he praises his uncle and mother for what they’ve done for him. It ends with a beautiful recording from his grandmother. Don’t even get me started on what he sampled for this song. Take Care had it all and what Life Is Good lacked in mainstream hits, Take Care had in abundance. The soulful, upbeat, Rihanna-assisted “Take Care.” “Make Me Proud” featured a great feature from Nicki Minaj. “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” features Drake and Lil Wayne rapping out of their minds. “The Motto”, from the deluxe edition, had and still has all the parties jumpin’.
Singles and radio hits play a large part in how the record sells. For the people out there who want the number comparisons, Take Care sold 631,000 in the first week in the U.S., has gone platinum, and as of April 2013 has sold 2,003,000 copies. Life Is Good sold 149,000 copies in the first week in the U.S. and has sold 354,000 copies as of February 2013.
When you really look at everything, it’s no surprise that Drake went home with the Grammy. Drake has crafted a sound that everyone can identify with. He’s got songs for the people out there who are as vulnerable as he is. He’s got songs for the people who just want something they can dance to. He’s got songs for the people like me, who are obsessive about lyricism. He’s got songs for the ladies. He’s got songs for the niggas who just need something to nod their heads to. Take Care took hip-hop and R&B and merged them into something indescribable. In the best way possible. It saw Drake looking comfortable in his own skin and confident in his sound. Life Is Good was great, but Take Care meant so much more. It’s an album everyone can enjoy. So enjoy it.
"My sophomore, I was all for it, they all saw it/My junior and senior will only get meaner, take care nigga…"