It's that time of the year again. This morning, the 2020 Grammy nominations were announced, sparking another conversation about snubs and larger narratives in pop music. This year, three relative newcomers were rewarded by the Recording Academy with armfuls of major nominations: Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X. All three were nominated for Album of the Year and Record of the Year, while Lizzo led all artists with eight total nominations (which sparked a lot of debate).
So, what did the Recording Academy get right? Who got snubbed? What do these nominations say about the current state of music? The Complex Music staff spent the morning debating these nominations and came up with a list of our initial reactions.
The rap representation in the major categories is weird
The four major categories—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist—feature minimal representation of hip-hop artists. And the nominated musicians who are associated with the genre—Lil Nas X, Lizzo, and Post Malone—are considered by many to be pop artists at this point. At a time when hip-hop has become the most-consumed genre in America, it seems like an oversight that rap artists with standout years (Tyler, the Creator, DaBaby, and Young Thug) didn’t receive any nominations in the major categories. Lil Nas X getting an Album of the Year nomination for 7 over Tyler’s IGOR feels very strange. The hip-hop categories themselves are better this year (more on that later) so some voters at the Academy seem to have their fingers on the pulse of rap, but those in charge of the major categories missed the mark on what’s really been happening in the genre this year. The Recording Academy’s senior vice president of awards, Bill Freimuth, told us last year that there are different committees that guide the genre-specific awards than the majors, so that might contribute to the inconsistencies. —Eric Skelton
The rap categories are fine, but could be better
Compared to the major categories, the rap-specific categories are better. DaBaby’s breakout hit, “Suge,” was rewarded with two nominations for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. It was also nice to see Young Thug get a nomination for “The London,” Mustard and Roddy Ricch’s sleeper hit “Ballin” get some love, Nipsey Hussle receive multiple nominations, and 21 Savage pull in two nominations of his own. Despite choosing to hold his solo album until 2020, J. Cole also earned some nominations, including one for “Middle Child” and another for his collaborative Dreamville album, Revenge of the Dreamers III (a Best Rap Album nomination for a compilation album is a truly impressive feat, and a testament to what Cole has done with Dreamville). We so have a few gripes with the nominations (we would have loved to see Megan Thee Stallion, 2 Chainz, Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, and Thug’s So Much Fun get some love) but overall, the rap categories are fine this year. —Eric Skelton
DaBaby deserves a Best New Artist nomination
Unfortunately, the Academy continues to overlook rappers for the Best New Artist category. The nominations list focuses on pop-leaning artists, with only Lizzo and Lil Nas X representing the hip-hop genre (although there is a case to be made that both are pop artists). Frankly, the Academy missed the opportunity to recognize DaBaby, who has undoubtedly had the biggest breakout year for any artist in rap. The North Carolina rapper dropped two excellent projects this year, Baby on Baby and Kirk, both of which received positive reviews and commercial success. DaBaby did nab two nominations for his platinum hit, “Suge” (Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance), so the Academy is aware of his existence, which makes it feel even more strange that he was snubbed out of a Best New Artist nomination. While we’re on the topic, Megan Thee Stallion deserved a nomination here, too. —Jessica McKinney
The Academy loves Lizzo
They made it very clear with these nominations: the Academy adores Lizzo. How else can you explain eight nominations (the most for any artist this year)? Lizzo has definitely had a breakout year, thanks to her hit single “Truth Hurts” and the re-release of “Good As Hell,” but it is surprising to see how many nods she received. Her nominations are spread across many different categories, including Best R&B Song, Best Pop Performance, and Record of the Year, but the most confusing is her placement in the Best New Artist category. The debate about new artists is nothing new. Alessia Cara received flack for winning the award years after her musical debut. But Lizzo getting recognition this year seems especially out of place. While she had a moment this year, Lizzo started gaining attention as early as 2013. She’s released three studio albums over the past six years, and “Truth Hurts,” her biggest record to date, is more than two years old. It appears the Academy cares less about when you broke into the industry and more about how popular you’ve been become within a specific timeframe. We’re not trying to steal her thunder, but her spot could’ve been awarded to a newer artist like DaBaby or Megan Thee Stallion. —Jessica McKinney
Tyler, the Creator has his best chance at winning the Grammy he’s always wanted
We all think Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR got snubbed out of a nomination for Album of the Year, but at least he earned a nod for Best Rap Album. Since Tyler first emerged at the top of the decade, he’s been outspoken about his desire for a Grammy. Back when he was releasing dark, DIY projects like Bastard and Goblin, his Grammy aspirations seemed unlikely, but he kept telling us it would happen. In 2010, he even tweeted, “Im going to get a grammy. Watch.” Flower Boy was nominated for a Grammy in 2018, but Tyler wasn’t satisfied. “They was playing at the grams, one nom ain’t enough/I’ma make sure that that shit ain’t happening again,” he rapped on “453.” Although he only received one nomination again, Tyler has his best chance of finally winning a Grammy this year. The critically-acclaimed IGOR seems to be a favorite over albums from YBN Cordae, Dreamville, Meek Mill, and 21 Savage. —Eric Skelton
It’s great to see Nipsey get 3 posthumous nominations
The Academy got this one right. It’s great to see Nipsey Hussle getting the respect and recognition he deserves. Nearly eight months after his tragic death, Nip has received three posthumous nominations. “Racks in the Middle,” which features Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy, received two nods for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance, while Higher,” Nip’s collab with John Legend and DJ Khaled earned a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance. Last year, Hussle was up for Best Rap Album for his critically acclaimed album, Victory Lap, but lost to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy. While the Academy deserves some applause for acknowledging Nipsey even after death, they have been criticized in the past. If you remember, Ariana Grande called out the Academy earlier this year for inviting Mac Miller’s family to the awards show, just to let them leave empty handed. Hopefully, Lauren London and the rest of Nip’s family will experience a better result. —Jessica McKinney
It’s been an odd year for rap
One big takeaway from these nominations is that the past 12 months in rap haven’t lived up to previous years. After a couple very strong years, hip-hop has had an off year in 2019 when it comes to major releases. Heavy-hitters like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole chose not to release solo albums, while Kanye West opted to scrap Yandhi in favor of a polarizing gospel album. Even artists like Tyler, the Creator strayed further away from rap on IGOR. Fortunately, newcomers like DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion kept things exciting, but overall, it’s been somewhat of a flat year in hip-hop. —Eric Skelton