The real Grammy Awards (you know, the lame, not nearly as cool version) airs Sunday, February 12 at 8:00pm EST on CBS.
Noticed a discrepancy between the 54th annual Grammy Award nominees and what everyone was actually listening to in 2011? Convinced that "Music's Biggest Night" happens every Saturday at the dive bar around the corner? Think you can die happy without seeing Taylor Swift win another award for... whatever it is that she does? Well, you've come to the right place.
This year, Ology is holding its first annual ANTI-GRAMMYS. That's right, we're giving out our own awards to the bands, artists, albums and songs we actually loved... that actually deserve recognition. No politics, no BS, no lame, over-choreographed "live" performances—just the best music of the past year. Best part? The National Association of Record Arts and Sciences aren't picking the winners. You are!
Best Rap Album
Evidence - Cats & Dogs
Evidence felt plenty of pressure following up his across-the-board 5 star WeathermanLP from '07, and with Cats & Dogs, he squashed doubts with the production quality and scratch-drenched tracklist he delivered in the project. Ev brought together a cast to join him in putting together one of the best produced albums of the year, and his monotone lyrical flow found a place to fit in perfectly with what could easily have stood as an instrumental LP. You'll find a color wheel of sound throughout Cats & Dogs, as well as some of the running concepts you've know from Weatherman, and the end result is something where it's difficult to choose what you admire most about the records.
Talib Kweli - Gutter Rainbows
Gutter Rainbows falls in the limbo between the final rain of the season and first ray of sun, playing off of the album's title and fitting with hinted themes designed around the concept of optimism amidst bleaker times. Talib delivers in every lyrical tone and style he's shared with us over the years, twisting his intellectual rhymes around well-laid commentary, narratives and messages that combine into a smooth-flowing groove that rolls through transitions with ease. The tracks are carefully placed to play off of one another and create a fuller hip-hop experience than if they'd been focused around a singular aspect of the genre. We might be waiting for that Black Star album for a while, though Prisoner of Conscious is shortly away, but I've got plenty of time reserved for Gutter Rainbows in between the respective listens.
Ab-Soul - LongTerm: Mentality
The Black Hippy movement in the Top Dawg Entertainment camp is undoubtedly reviving the West Coast tradition, and while Kendrick Lamar is serving the intellectual, Jay Rock is serving the gangster, and Schoolboy Q is serving your street usual, Ab-Soul's managing to disperse his sounds to the undefined leftovers. There's a great unconventionality in his spoken word street-slanged offbeat flow, and his Meek Mill pitch creates a product that's difficult to mark, because he's flourishing in sounds where it doesn't seem like he belongs. There's a prodigious amount of emotion and basic commentary throughout LongTerm: Mentality amidst customary West Coast themes and motifs, and, somehow, there's a balance within it all. He's one of the more exciting pioneers on the microphone right now, and whatever it is exactly that he's doing, he's doing it right.
Curren$y - Pilot Talk II
Lyrical topic aside, Spitta works alone in trademark kush-rap mode, his various tracks each some alien strain of weed that deliver a synesthesiac experience with the various soul-funk, ambient, heavy-enough notes of hip-hop; his serpentine slack flow and signature repetitions give yet another foreign quality to the continuation in his Pilot Talk series, and while Curren$y might now have found proper airwave play (mostly due to the abuse of MBDTF singles...) when Pilot Talk II dropped, the frequency of online showcases and plays shows the irrelevance under the "Well, I never heard it on Hot97" opinion. Oh, and he happened to drop this one in the same year as Pilot Talk and Smokee Robinson. How many other "John Doe" nominees put out more than two projects in 2010...
Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
Call it an "official mixtape" "unofficial album," or whatever you want—Kendrick Lamar just put out one of the best pieces of music we've heard in the last two years, maybe more, and won this honor back in July when he released the project. It's been a long time since we've seen someone make such a detailed and cohesive concept album that speaks volumes without preaching, drives intelligence without sacrificing quality, and in the end, rightly deserves the title "real" that's so easily thrown around. The ideas, narratives and vignettes working throughout Section.80 are almost literary in their resonance, with Kendrick acting as nothing more than a vessel, and with all artistic genius considered, it comes out to be a near flawless tracklist that tromps anything that we've been hearing from new generation emcees.
Here's where you come in—hit up our comments section below and VOTE for your favorite nominee for Rap Album of the Year. We'll award 1 point for each vote and an extra bonus point if you take the time/effort to tell us why Evidence, Talib Kweli, Ab-Soul, Curren$y, or Kendrick Lamar released the best album of 2011. Be creative, be expressive, be excited—we want to know exactly what you love so much about it!
We'll announce all eight ANTI-GRAMMY winners on Saturday, February 11, so keep checking Ology.com every Tuesday and Thursday between now and then to vote for more of the music you actually gave a damn about this past year.
Want to connect, debate, and argue with fellow Music Ologists? Join the discussion over on My.Ology.