Grammy countdown: Is Eminem's 'Relapse' a lock for best rap album?
Pop & Hiss will be handicapping the major Grammy categories leading up to the Jan. 31 telecast. Read our picks, and vote for your own, below.
The field at a glance: Three of the last five years, the best rap album went to Kanye West. During the eligibility period for the 2010 awards, West drifted from his hip-hop past, offering up a collection of moody pop with "808s and Heartbreak," and thus opening up the rap album field.
But West isn't the only superstar absent from this category. Due to a one-month advance in the eligibility period from Sept. 31 to Aug. 31, Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" missed the window to be considered for the 2010 awards, having been released on Sept. 8. The omission of the 2010 Coachella headliner will be felt, as the album has sold more than 1.5 million copies in just four months, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
What's left, however, is a rather broad snapshot of hip-hop over 2009. Flo Rida maintained his dominance as a singles artist, as his "Right Round" featuring Ke$ha sold more than 4 million downloads throughout 2009. His album "R.O.O.T.S.," however, didn't make the same impact as its individual cuts.
Introspective rapper and perennial nominee Common went the party route with his more lighthearted "Universal Mind Control," and indie-minded artists such as Mos Def and Q-Tip are also represented in the field. Q-Tip's album, "The Renaissance," was released in late 2008 and featured him melding hip-hop and neo-soul, as well as working with an impressive group of collaborators including Norah Jones and Nelly Furtado. It should be the kind of easily approachable album Grammy voters love, but it's far from the biggest success in the category, as Eminem's first album in five years, "Relapse," rounds out the field.
And the Grammy goes to: Book it for Eminem. Though some of the rapper's outrageous attacks at times felt a bit dated or obvious (Jessica Simpson? Hannah Montana?), the album still achieved the kind of sales success that voters won't pass up. To date, the spring release has sold more than 1.75 million copies, and whether making borderline violent videos or lashing out at Mariah Carey, Eminem proved to still be adept at garnering headlines. Q-Tip deserves it, but Eminem will get his fourth best rap album Grammy on Jan. 31.
Photo: Eminem accepts a Grammy at the 2001 ceremony. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times