You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Grammy Predictions: Will Kendrick Lamar Top Gambino for Rap/Sung Performance?

While the Carters — a.k.a. Jay-Z and Beyonce — are notable by their absence from the 2019 Grammy nominees in a category Jay has won a record seven times, that makes this year’s slate only slightly less interesting: For the first time since 2007, the lead artist on two of the nominated performances are white.

One, Post Malone, scored one of the year’s biggest hits with “Rockstar.” The song is also up for Record of the Year, and its parent album, “Beerbongs & Bentleys,” is an Album of the Year finalist. In a less-competitive year, he’d be a major threat to become the first white lead artist to win since Eminem did in 2015 for his Rihanna collaboration “The Monster.” (Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park are the only other white headliners to snag Best Rap/Sung Performance since the Academy introduced it in 2002.)

The other top-billed white artist in contention is Christina Aguilera, up for her Goldlink collaboration “Like I Do.” Although Xtina has recorded with a number of rappers in the past, this is her first time competing in this category. She’s already won five Grammys, including Best New Artist, over the course of her career. If her “Liberation” album had been a bigger hit or if Goldlink were a bigger chart star, “Like I Do,” might have more potential here.

Rap superstar J. Cole is copilot on 6lack’s nominated song “Pretty Little Fears,” but the latter, a singer/rapper from Atlanta, was unable to parlay critical acclaim for his sophomore album, “East Atlanta Love Letter,” into major commercial success. This is 6black’s only nomination, and a win would qualify as a true Grammy upset.

Thus, the Rap/Sung contest boils down to the two remaining nominees: Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars,” both of which are also up for Record and Song of the Year.

Gambino (a.k.a. Emmy-winning “Atlanta” actor Donald Glover) might seem to have the edge because the zeitgeist-capturing song was a viral sensation, and it’s the only nominee that topped Billboard’s Hot 100. Its inclusion in this category, though, is a bit of a head-scratcher. With only a few exceptions – like 6black’s 2018 nominee “Prblms” – Best Rap/Sung Performance contenders tend to be collaborations between two or more separate acts, and “This Is America” is far more notable for Glover’s rapping than for his singing. (Drake pulled off the one-man thing with “Hotline Bling” in 2017, but he had weaker competition.)

“This Is America” would seem to have a better shot in the crowded Record and Song of the Year races, where genre is less important than the song itself. Glover’s co-nominee in both of those categories is “This Is America” cowriter and co-producer Ludwig Göransson, the Swedish composer and producer behind “Black Panther,” a Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media nominee. His behind-the-scenes work on “This Is America” makes him ineligible for a nomination in Best Rap/Sung Performance.

At the end of the day, we expect Lamar to triumph in this category for the third time in four years, if “All the Stars,” his duet with SZA, can overcome a few hurdles. As the first single from “Black Panther: The Album,” the hip-hop companion piece to the 2018 superhero film, it reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 but was not the cultural phenomenon that the movie became.

Still, it has bragging rights to a Best Original Song Oscar nomination, and although it doesn’t seem to stand a chance in the Oscar race against Lady Gaga and her “A Star Is Born” Song of the Year nominee “Shallow,” its Oscar momentum makes it seem virtually unbeatable here.

“All the Stars” is the type of traditional rapper/vocalist combination that Grammy voters tend to go for in this category, and Lamar and SZA boost its chances with their combined star power. Since neither Lady Gaga nor Bradley Cooper raps on “Shallow,” this feels like the one prize this award season that is Lamar and SZA’s to lose.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo

    Moody Blues' Justin Hayward Isn't Burning Up Over What Got Lost in the Fire

    Nobody called Justin Hayward about the fire on the Universal Studios Hollywood lot — not Universal Music Group, certainly, but also no reporters. “There were much more important people to call or to speak about that,” Hayward says, in his typically self-effacing, English way. The New York Timesrecently blew the lid off of the 2008 [...]

  • Album Review: Brockhampton's 'Ginger'

    Album Review: Brockhampton's 'Ginger'

    It is a testament to the sheer creative force and prolific output of their last two breakout years that, though the members are only in their early 20s, Brockhampton has settled into a kind of artistic maturity on their new record, “Ginger.” In 2017, Brockhampton burst into the hip-hop consciousness offering a bold paradigm shift [...]

  • Taylor SwiftTeen Choice Awards, Arrivals, Los

    Taylor Swift Says She's 'Remorseful' For Not Getting Involved in 2016 Election

    Taylor Swift says she feels “really remorseful for not saying anything” during Trump’s run for presidency in 2016, per an interview with the Guardian published today. The singer points to her negative public image during the time of the election as one reason she stayed uninvolved, but explained that she would’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton for [...]

  • Lil Nas XCMA Fest, Nashville, USA

    Will Grammys' Country Categories Welcome a New Tide of Black Artists?

    Country music has never been known as a bastion of diversity. Even in this era of female empowerment, the genre remains largely a man’s world  —  make that a white man’s world. But things might be improving slowly, in the industry as a whole and, by extension, maybe even with Grammy voters. When the nominees are [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled's Long Tail? Three Months After Release, 'Father of Asahd' Has Legs

    DJ Khaled kicked off the summer with a bang, appearing on the season closer of “Saturday Night Live” in May followed by a performance on the BET Awards a month later — both all-star productions of songs from his latest album, “Father of Asahd,” released by Epic Records on May 17. But since then, he’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content