Primetime's Grammy Album Picks & Snubs
2021 Grammy Nominees for Best Rap Album:
Black Habits - D Smoke
Alfredo - Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist
A Written Testimony - Jay Electronica & Jay-Z
King’s Disease - Nas
The Allegory - Royce da 5’9”
Sophia - Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
There really wasn’t too much choice when it came to this year’s Grammys. It was the first time the Best Rap Album category was almost entirely represented by names that reached their primes decades ago. Historically, the Grammys always either misinterpreted, misjudged, or was blatantly careless about any of the rap categories. This time, it seemed as though they were trying to set things right by nominating lyricists of the past despite their irrelevancy to contemporary rap in years. Not to mention, their albums were not good. But since we’re here, out of the five albums nominated, “Alfredo” should be the winner of this year’s contest. Alfredo is the best of the mediocre albums and truthfully it was the only album that may have deserved its nomination. Gibbs and The Alchemist collaborated to contribute an underdog project that garnered a great amount of attention amongst the younger, new guard of rappers like Lil Baby and Roddy Ricch. Over fine-tuned, Alchemist produced beats, Gibbs lays down the unswerving, vivid narratives that he’s signatured throughout his career. There were no gimmicks, no facades or trying to relate to the younger generation, just simply Freddie Gibbs. Gibbs gangsta rhymes paired perfectly with the mafia-inspired ambience throughout the project. Gibbs delivered a project that was authentically crafted and well-served like a plate of Alfredo pasta.
Thomas - A Written Testimony, Jay Electronica & Jay-Z
Though many may have felt the decade-plus wait for Jay Electronica’s debut album raised the bar a bit too high, A Written Testimony was refreshingly authentic. As far a departure from the hit-makers of today as he was during the early years of his career, Jay Electronica’s monotone flows and other-wordly vocabulary are complemented by an ability to stay relatively current in his production yet strikingly unique. To top off a project from rap’s most mysterious man after the world waited 13 years, with Jay-Z verses on virtually every song is what truly sets this album apart. As one of his original prodigies, Jay Elect showcases the ability to pull out the more lyrically-focused, other-worldly side of Hov and the two alongside each other on track has the effect of elevating them both to their best as lyricists and musicians. Roc Nation’s legendary pair of Jay’s enlisted the likes of producers such as The Alchemist, Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, No I.D. and Khruangbin, though most of the production was handled by Jay Electronica himself. To employ the vocals of Louis Farakkhan, James Blake, James Fauntelroy, The-Dream and Travis Scott adds to the project's versatility of sound to combat the monotone sound of Jay Elect. A Written Testimony is as cohesive, if not more cohesive, than any of the other nominees, and a credit section full of legends as well as a thorough concept in drawing influence for the album from the doctrine of the Nation of Islam makes it this year’s Grammy winner (and Jay-Z’s undeniable pedigree make this the committee’s likely pick in my opinion).
TJ - Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Looking at this year’s nominees, it’s difficult to come out and pick a Rap album of the year. In a year where the “Big 4” didn’t drop, and with so much going on outside of entertainment, it’s easy to see why there’s a bit of a quality disparity in comparison to other years. My pick for who I WANT to win, is Freddie Gibbs alongside legendary producer The Alchemist. While I prefer his 2019 release with MadLib better, Gibbs is at his best over classic alchemist here, and what gets better than that? It’s an album that’s reminiscent of Pusha T’s Kanye produced DAYTONA in lyrical content, with strong features, and no filter raps that don’t leave any space of the beat untouched. It’s a gorgeous album that pure hip hop fans will love, and up against this competition, I think it’s the only deserving album for the AOTY pedestal.
Gio - Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
In a year filled with so much uncertainty the list of nominees for Rap album of the year is underwhelming but that being said from the potential picks the album I feel deserves the grammy is Alfredo. Freddie Gibbs emerged onto my radar midway through last year so with Alfredo comes an album I enjoy over melodic and well constructed beats from the Alchemist. He was album to deliver on the feature list as well with Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Tyler the creator and Rick Ross. In this short album you find incredible rapping ability, storytelling and superb wordplay on 2020’s best nominated rap album.
Seth - Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Honestly this isn’t even Freddie’s best work, but I think he beats out the other nominated albums in this category. The 38-year-old officially entered stardom within the hip-hop community with this album. We’ve seen Gibbs collab successfully with critically-acclaimed producer, Madlib, but this time he was able to shift gears and transform his style to go along with the melodic beats that The Alchemist was able to cook up. In Alfredo, Gibbs’ skill was undeniable; he was able to get off his drug centralized lyrics through unique flows and creative bars. The production of this album is what made it so special though. The beats weren’t too flashy, but the overall vibe was consistent. The Alchemist made Gibbs seem like he was the star of his own modern mobster movie by providing slower beats that Gibbs was able to thrive off, along with smooth transitions that made the album flow pretty well. This album also gave us A1 features from Tyler the Creator, Rick Ross, Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine; each of them were able to flourish on those Alchemist beats and they were able to match the tone of the album to keep the vibe consistent. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think Gibbs is at his best when the beats are slowed down. The Alchemist was able to deliver those beats efficiently so we could get the best out of Gibbs on each song. These two made something special and I wouldn’t be surprised if they collabed again. “My name cocaine, they ain’t got put me in the nominees,” Gibbs on Frank Lucas.
Ralston - Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Personally I don’t think the list of nominees really reflects rap this year, but this is something that happens every year. With that being said Alfredo is the album on this list that deserves the Grammy this weekend. The alchemist laid down smooth seductive beats for Gibbs to rap over and Gibbs does not disappoint. With songs like Scottie Beam, Babies & Fools, and Frank Lucas, Gibbs chooses great features like Conway the Machine, Rick Ross and Benny the Butcher. The album as a whole works and is easy to listen to.
Sophia - My Turn, Lil Baby
It was a complete shock to not see Lil Baby’s “My Turn” on the Best Rap Album list. As I stated before, the Grammys has a history of getting it wrong but to completely snub “My Turn” was unexpected. Not only was “My Turn” Lil Baby’s greatest studio effort so far in his career, one that harnessed the voice of Atlanta’s trap scene, but it was the most consumed album of 2020. The Grammys almost always considers albums that receive massive commercial success and the fact that “My Turn” was the most streamed album of all genres and still got snubbed is undeniably wrong. Besides its commercial success, Lil Baby stepped into his role as the current rap phenomenon where he produced contagious, potent hooks on songs like “Emotionally Scarred” and “Sum 2 Prove”. “My Turn” gave chart singles without the typical elements of pop and accelerated the blueprint of how trap can become a mainstream sub-genre in music as a whole. Lil Baby’s emotionally raw bars about harsh inner-city realities and gun violence truly demonstrated that he is a dynamic artist with a natural execution of the mic. “My Turn” depicted the life of a troubled youth turned superstar and added pavement to the path of success for young trap rappers.
Thomas - My Turn (Deluxe), Lil Baby
The failure of the committee to recognize Lil Baby is truly exposing how out of touch the ones making calls for the Grammys are. To ignore a project and an artist that has generated the amount of noise Lil Baby and My Turn have is a blatant misstep and a decision to ignore one of the world’s fastest rising stars. The continued mistake of the Grammys in overlooking and failing to grasp trap music seems destined to carry on if they are unable to recognize the universal growth Baby exhibited on My Turn and the value of the project as one of the best of the past year. My Turn is powerfully cohesive from top to bottom, even through the late additions of the deluxe version, and Baby’s decision to spit at full-force from start to finish on track is energy unmatched in the game since Weezy’s prime.
TJ - My Turn, Lil Baby & Circles, Mac Miller
My Turn: A non-nominated album that I think was snubbed is Lil Baby’s “My Turn”. My turn epitomizes this year’s rap music, and is a better representation of the time than many of the other nominees and industry plants. (Looking at you, D smoke) Baby is one of the games hottest artists and deserved a nod here as a nominee.
Circles: While Circles at its core is NOT a rap album, like we’ve seen with Tyler, The creators 2019 Igor nomination, the Grammys doesn’t care. If you made hip hop, you’re a hip hop artist to them. Mac’s Circles is one of the most innovative albums of the last 5-10 years in my opinion, and showed Mac’s incredible musical prowess in and outside of the Jazz/Funk/Hip-Hop genre. He was truly one of the greats, and deserved the recognition here, even if it wasn’t his best work in its entirety. This is a popularity contest anyway, so why not just lean into it @oldwhitegrammyvoters.
Gio - Just Cause Y’all Waited 2, Lil Durk
For me this was the largest snub of the year in terms of rap music, 2020 was an honest competition between Lil Baby and Lil Durk for who could turn everything they touch into gold the quickest but in doing so we watched Lil Durk lap his peers with this album. Durk’s storytelling ability on this album is something otherworldly as well as his beat selection. This album was a showcase that Chicago does in fact have depth beyond drill music. He pens his grievances about pain, heartbreak, tragedy and most importantly the subject that brings out the best in Durkio on this album is his girlfriend and mother of his children. Lil Durk was not only the voice of Chicago this year but he was also the face of rap music for 2020.
Seth - Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel, Black Thought
One of the rap game’s best lyricists came back with aggression and purpose to drop his third installment in the Streams of Thought series. I thought this album was a special listening experience all the way through. Black Thought touched upon topics such as the issues in corporate America, racial problems that got escalated in 2020 and personal struggles throughout his professional career. The album was mostly Black Thought spitting, but he did have some more unique songs in there too like Nature of the Beast featuring Portugal. The man. I didn’t see a lot of people talking about this album and it surprised me because I thought it was a really great album. But I mean it’s not like Black Thought doesn’t have enough Grammies already.
Ralston - My Turn, Lil Baby
This is not my favorite album of the year albeit it’s a good album, nevertheless there is no denying the success Lil Baby had with this album this year. This album was the most streamed rap album of the year, with its wide commercial success it’s hard to ignore. The album itself does not fall short this being in the running it definitely would be a harder choice for rap album of the year.