This is what we’re expecting the 2021 Grammy nominations to look like

Let’s be honest, 2020 has been a shit show. From battling a global pandemic with seismic effects on the global economy and life as we once knew it, to rallying together in strong opposition against police brutality, racism, and years of corruption and violence in several parts of the world it has been a strife-filled year. Luckily, we’re near the end with only 5 weeks left, and are looking ahead into next year, with one of the music world’s biggest nights, The Grammy Awards looming.

Ironically, before the pandemic The Grammys were one of the last awards shows held in person, and other award shows throughout the year have become a virtual event, in efforts to remain socially distanced. However, come COVID-19 vaccine or not, the prestigious night is set to take place next January, celebrating the best of the fold for their achievements and contributions to music and wider pop culture this past year.

So far this year, the rookies seem to be dominating conversation, and seem to have been preparing for this pivotal moment. Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” remained at number one for over 10 weeks, and also racked up over 68.2 million weekly streams, which became the highest nonseasonal stream total since Lil Nas X’s almighty “Old Town Road” last summer. In addition, Roddy also joined Lil Baby as the only two rappers this year to go double platinum this year with the release of his single “My Turn” back in February. Both artists are a definite shoo-in for even more accolades 63rd Grammy Awards having already bagged similar awards at previous shows this year such as the MTV EMAs, the AMA’s, and the BET Hip-Hop Awards. The Weeknd’s ‘After Hours’ spent 34 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard R&B album charts and Summer Walker’s ‘Over It’ spent 58 weeks in the charts. And black women stole the show with Megan thee Stallion’s standout single “Savage” taking over the quarantine, and populating social media platforms from Twitter to TikTok before landing a Queen Bey stamp of approval with the “Savage Remix”. Cardi B and Megan thee Stallion’s “WAP” also broke the US record for the most first-week streams for a song and riled up misogynists in one clean sweep landing them the Best Hip-Hop/Rap song at the AMA’s yesterday.

Over in these parts, this year has been cosmic for African music on the global scene. There’s no denying that the world has turned its focus on Africa and the wealth of talent that exists across the creative arts, upping the stakes for many African artists and fostering an environment where they can attain global cultural relevance. Last year, Burna Boy was nominated for the former Best World Music Album category for his 2019 album, ‘African Giant‘, though he missed out on bringing the golden gramophone to Nigeria, this year the self-proclaimed African Giant returns with his third major-label release ‘Twice As Tall’, an undoubtably Grammy contender. Since  he was nominated last year, conversation surrounding the Grammy’s have mostly been about him, however, he’s  not the only one gunning for the glory. Many of the afropop’s current frontrunners have been positioning themselves for recognition on this scale for quite some time, and with big wig label signings, have increased chances of global recognition. Tiwa Savage and Sauti Sol are currently signed to Universal Music Group, while Nasty C recently penned a deal with Def Jam Records, Adekunle Gold with UK’s Virgin EMI Records and even younger, less mainstream acts such as Cruel Santino have bagged a joint venture deals with LVRN giving them higher chances of a cultural impact on a worldwide scale. This year also, the cross-Atlantic collaborations have only multiplied with standouts including Pop Smoke and Burna Boy, Nicki Minaj and Davido, Burna Boy and Naughty by Nature, Tiwa Savage and Sam Smith, Nasty C and T.I Tems, Davido and Khalid and so many more.

In the year after Burna Boy’s widely discussed Grammy nod and the Coachella fiasco, currently, Nigerian albums such as Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall‘, Wizkid’s ‘Made in Lagos’ and Davido’s ‘A Better Time’ rank respectively at nos. 54, 80 & 170 on the Billboard Top 200 albums, typifying the current level of recognition that African music is garnering on a global scale. It doesn’t hurt that the music is also getting recognition on smaller circuits, Burna Boy bagged the MTV EMA awards in 2019 but was unsuccessful the following year losing to South African artist Master KG for his hit single “Jerusalema” (which the African Giant later featured on). Burna Boy later won the award for Best International Act at the BET Awards two years in a row and Mr Eazi recently won Best Best Urban Music Album for his work on J Balvin’s ‘Colours’. Given that award shows like the Grammys portray themselves to be the forebearer of music, culture, and entertainment, it only follows that recognition or nod from the Academy is seen as just indication that an artist has reached the upper echelons of success and popularity on a global scale.

In the past years, the Grammys have made a couple of changes to their set structures to be more inclusive to the diverse range of artists and music that we’re getting today. Earlier on in the month, the Grammys announced that they would be renaming the coveted ‘Best World Music Album’ category, to ‘Best Global Music Album’ stating that the change was pushed to better show cultural sensitivity.“As We Continue To Embrace A Truly Global Mindset, We Update Our Language To Reflect A More Appropriate Categorization That Seeks To Engage And Celebrate The Current Scope Of Music Around The World”, the statement read. The move was seen as long overdue as the former term ‘world music’ had always been under contestation given that it connotes the harmful colonial idea that there’s a catch-all phrase for every style of music from around the world that isn’t familiar to an American audience.

However, although the Grammys are just recently waking up to this development, it is yet to be seen how and if at all the scope of the award would change, possibly suggesting that nominees under this category would still remain wildly disparate and encompass artists from a diverse range of backgrounds and sounds, as it has in the past from Nigeria’s Burna Boy to The Netherland’s Altin Gün. Previous Grammy award winners such as Angelique Kidjo have been vocal about the outdated categorisation of the award show, in an interview with OkayAfricaKidjo, pushed back against the patronising attitudes embodied by the Grammys and emphasised that African music was far too distinct to be lumped into one category that failed to do justice to its diversity.

This time around, the stakes are even higher for the ‘Best Global Music Album’ win, in West Africa, both Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage have dropped albums that are eligible for nomination in the category. Over in South Africa, Nasty C made his first major-label release under Def Jam Records with ‘Zulu Man with Some Power’ and over in the East, Sauti Sol’s ‘Midnight Train’ is also eligible for nomination. Winning the award especially would mean so much in this year, where the pandemic and the global struggle for freedom on all fronts united our hearts and ears through music. We believe that the 63rd Grammys would show a lot of diversity this time around, encompassing artists from around the world. Owing to the remarkable run that afropop has had this year though, we’re hopeful that one of ours will take the prize home again this year. Burna Boy seems like the obvious potential for this year’s nomination seeing as the ‘African Giant’ lost out on the award last year to Angelique Kidjo but bounced back a year later with ‘Twice As Tall’. Coming back this year with a star-studded guest list that featured Naughty by Nature, Chris Martins, Stormzy, and Youssou N’Dour, Burna Boy’s global-facing agenda is clear, and he could very well bring the award home.

 

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With artists such as Tiwa Savage, Sauti Sol, and Nasty C, the prospect of nomination is hinged on the cultural impact that their albums have had since release. Earlier in the year, following the release of his album ‘Zulu Man with Some Power’, Nasty C set a new record for the most pre-adds for an upcoming album on Apple Music, as announced on Apple Music’s Africa Now radio show. He also featured American rappers like T.I, Lil Keed, Lil Gotit, and Ari Lennox, which earned him the title of the most streamed hip-hop/rap artist in Africa.

Similarly Tiwa Savage’s third studio album ‘Celia’ featured guest appearances from Sam Smith, Stefflon Don, Naira Marley, and more, earning the artist her well-deserved stripes as she made chart history throughout the country. ‘Celia’ was also very important culturally, as a female entertainer (and a mother) Tiwa Savage is chided by critics for the way she addresses sex and sexuality in her music, much like we find to be the case with other female artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and even Beyoncé. With ‘Celia’, African women are getting the nuanced and detailed representation of their lives by a woman who has lived through similar experiences and bounced back each time. Kenya’s Sauti Sol have become one of the musical groups to reckon with in recent times, with the group attaining a mainstay spot on many afropop albums that emerged from Africa this year including Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall’, Niniola’s ‘Colours and Sounds’ and Davido’s ‘A Better Time’.

As the clock ticks and the time for the announcement of this year’s set of nominees draws closer, the team at the NATIVE compiled our predictions of 2021 nominees and potential winners across 10 categories including Best World Music, Best New Artist, Rap Song of the Year, and Best R&B Song. Have a look at our picks and see which ones you would stick or switch.

Best Global Music Album

Burna Boy – Twice As Tall

Tiwa Savage – Celia

Sauti Sol – Midnight Train

Nasty C – Zulu Man with Some Power

Davido – A Good Time 

Best Rap Album

Roddy Ricch – ‘Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial’

Run The Jewels – ‘RT J4′

Megan thee Stallion – ‘Suga’

Pop Smoke – ‘Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon’

Lil Baby – ‘My Turn’

Best Rap Song

Pop Smoke – “The Woo”

Megan thee Stallion – “Savage”

Roddy Ricch – “The Box”

Doja Cat – “Say So”

Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture”

Best Rap Performance

Run the Jewels – “Oh La La”

Megan thee Stallion “Savage Remix” featuring Beyoncé

Roddy Ricch – “The Box”

Drake & Future – “Life Is Good”

Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture”

Best R&B Album

Summer Walker – Over It

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

The Weeknd – After Hours

Chloe x Halle – Ungold Hour

Jhene Aiko – Chilombo

Best R&B Song

The Weeknd – “Snowchild”

Chloe x Halle – “Do It”

Teyana Taylor – “Wake Up Love”

Snoh Alegra – “Whoa”

FKA Twigs – “Cellophane”

Record of the Year

The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

Harry Styles – “Adore You”

Roddy Ricch – “The Box”

Megan thee Stallion – “Savage”

Lady Gaga – “Rain on Me”

Album of the Year

Taylor Swift – Folklore

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

Lady Gaga – Chromatica

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia 


Words by Tami Makinde, Nominations by the NATIVE team


ICYMI: The Grammys rename ‘Best World Music Album’ category

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