Why Kendrick Lamar & JAY-Z May Destroy Each Others Chances At Winning Album Of The Year

With the 60th Grammy Award nominations being announced this week, and just a little under two months away from crowning the respective victors, the collective post-nomination conversation from those within the music industry and fans alike, has been incredibly rich in both impression and speculation. For the very first time in the cermony’s six-decade span, the nominations within the coveted Album of the Year category are occupied by solely artists of color (Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Bruno Mars) and a woman (Lorde), leaving the familiar white male selection on the outside looking in.

What has been a resonating cloud of racial adversity floating over the Grammys in recent past, leading to much displeasure, and boycotts of the event by Kanye West, Drake, Justin Beiber, and Frank Ocean, the nominations this year (for the first time in the ceremony’s history all “Record of the Year” nominations are people of color, as well) have brought to the surface the following question: Have The Recording Academy Voting Members felt the pushback and pleas for progression within the voting process, leading to winds of change, or are the 2018 nominations at hand simply being recognized for superior music?

While the answer to that question could very easily be a rejuvenating combination of both, what matters is that progress is seemingly in motion, and, the discussion can now revolve around both that momentum and most-critically, the artists and music itself.

At the forefront of the headway are two of Hip-Hop’s modern day icons in Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar who have wrapped up a colossal 15 combined nominations for their respective efforts between 4:44 and DAMN, and are both worthy candidates for the prestigious Album of the Year trophy.

The 47-year old Hova, who also refused to attend the Grammy’s during a late 90’s/early 2000’s window, is older than any AOTY nominee from the previous two years (by over 10 years). Working in his favor is the fact that in years past, the Academy has seemed to use this category as somewhat of a career achievement award when the nominations allow for it. Beck (2015), Robert Plant (2009), Herbie Hancock (2008), U2 (2006), Ray Charles (2005), Steely Dan (2001), Santana (2000), and Bob Dylan (1998) were all up against youthful and stiff competition, but carried so much history in their back pocket, potentially giving them the edge in taking home the award. The 21-time Grammy winner (tied for 11th-most) is certainly in the good graces of the Academy, but has never won Album of the Year, and could benefit greatly from being the veteran of this year’s nominations.

Kendrick has also shown himself to be a Grammy darling since 2013, collecting 29 nominations, 7 total Grammy wins and performing at the show 2 times, in that 4-year timespan. He will look for his first Album of the Year victory, after being nominated but falling short with his last two albums to both Daft Punk and Taylor Swift. DAMN. seems to be the collective favorite to win this year, receiving the most overall praise post-release, going platinum within 24-hours and eventually reaching double-platinum status, making it the best selling album released in 2017. Culturally speaking, the Academy would receive the most applause for honoring DAMN., as of all five nominations up for the award, K Dot represents the same growth and awareness that the Academy themselves are looking to achieve.

While the Grammys, and specifically this category, tend to generate controversy, the potentially daunting dynamic of 2018’s Album of the Year contest for both Kung Fu Kenny and Jigga, which could lead to neither Hip-Hop luminary collecting his first AOTY award, is the dreaded split vote. Could both DAMN and 4:44 demand so much acclaim, that they in turn neutralize the ceiling of one another by evenly dividing the votes, allowing a third party to slip in and triumph?

Perhaps The Wire is a fitting illustration. In Season 3, “Councilman Tommy Carcetti” makes his bid to be Baltimore’s next mayor. To do so, he takes on “Mayor Clarence Royce,” a Black official in a predominately Black city. “Carcetti” also encourages fellow councilman “Tony Gray,” another African-American candidate, to run, believing that the two Black males will split the vote and give him a path to victory against more heavily favored competition. In the end, Carcetti’s strategy is successful.

With DAMN. and 4:44 not only both being Hip-Hop, but also with Jay and Kendrick each representing different generations within the genre, they very well might end up splitting votes that, in any other year, might be powerful enough as a collective to carry the category.

As Hip-Hop Heads have debated the superior album in 2017, an exciting moment in the careers of two living legends may lead to more disappointment with the biggest award, on music’s largest stage. If that happens, who is the biggest beneficiary: Bruno, Gambino or Lorde?