Grammys 2024 In Hip-Hop/R&B: Who Will Win & Who Should Win?

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Nas or Travis Scott? Coco Jones or Victoria Monét? There are many tough decisions to make, and a lot of outcomes to consider.

It's (almost) the most wonderful time of the year for music fans: The Grammys. This includes the inevitable discourse that follows the award show. The Recording Academy already caught people's ire when they announced their nominees for the 2024 awards ceremony last year, snubbing hip-hop releases in the general field, much to the dismay of rap fans. The show is scheduled to air on Sunday, February 4 at 8 PM ET on CBS so naturally, we're asking two important questions: Who will probably walk away with a golden gramophone in the hip-hop and R&B categories, and who should win?

Of course, the difference here is that there are titans and underdogs in every race. Sometimes, the differentiating factor is quality, other times it's commercial success, and we might even get a legacy pick here and there. In every case, there is more than one release worthy of a Grammy; sometimes, all of them are. Hopefully the Recording Academy proves us wrong when our answers differ

Best R&B Performance

Robert Glasper performs at Los Angeles Chapter Nominee Celebration 2024 in Los Angeles on January 27, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
  • Chris Brown – "Summer Too Hot"
  • Robert Glasper ft. SiR & Alex Isley – "Back To Love"
  • Coco Jones – "ICU"
  • Victoria Monét – "How Does It Make You Feel"
  • SZA – "Kill Bill"

What Will Win: Are you ready to hear the coldest take you've ever heard in your life? Here goes nothing... it's SZA's "Kill Bill." Sure, Chris Brown is also a superstar (and nominated again, somehow), but did his song take over the charts as much as Solana's? "Back To Love" is peaceful harmony; is that as catchy and enveloping as killing your ex? While Coco Jones' "ICU" is one of the sultriest songs of 2023, is its instrumental as unique in melody and timbre as Rob Bisel and Carter Lang's production? Even though this is one of Victoria Monet's best songs off of JAGUAR II, did it transcend fanbases like this SOS highlight did? No.

What Should Win: But let's remember the category: Best R&B Performance. As far as vocals, Coco Jones steals the show, and everyone else is basically on par with SZA. That's to say that "ICU" is probably the correct sleeper pick here if we're going strictly off of typically captivating performances. But "Kill Bill" displays the TDE singer's ability to switch cadences and pitches on a dime, multiple flows and melodic approaches, and a more infectious energy. Sorry to cop out on the first category, but we would love a SZA/Coco tie. But when it's all said and done, "Kill Bill" is what will live on in the industry and with fans alike.

Read More: 2024 Grammy Nominees: SZA, Lana Del Rey, & Taylor Swift Lead The Way For Album Of The Year

Best Melodic Rap Performance

Lil Durk performs during Lil Baby's concert on December 27, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images)
  • Burna Boy ft. 21 Savage – "Sittin' On Top Of The World"
  • Doja Cat – "Attention"
  • Drake & 21 Savage – "Spin Bout U"
  • Lil Durk ft. J. Cole – "All My Life"
  • SZA – "Low"

What Will Win: Even though they're commercial giants, Drake and 21 Savage might get the short end of the stick, thanks to the former's reluctance to submit to the Grammys before. Then again, that could be exactly what makes them win trophies. But knowing the Recording Academy's tendency to favor a mix of mainstream rap and classic hip-hop worship, Lil Durk and J. Cole's "All My Life" is the front-runner. Doja Cat shines the most on "Attention" as a rapper, not a singer, and voters might think SZA already has her R&B and General Field categories in the bag. At least 21 has double odds, but the Burna Boy collab doesn't have the same name recognition or hit potential.

What Should Win: That being said, as a mixture of melodic dexterity and traditional rap metrics, no track here is as balanced as "Sittin' On Top Of The World." The infectious bassline, the gritty drum beat, and 21 Savage's refreshing approach to a more vintage instrumental contribute to this song's ear-worm quality. Burna Boy is the star, and his calm but charismatic croons use plenty of different flows to match the shifting instrumentation. "All My Life" is more lyrical except for the chorus, "Spin Bout U" is a weak point on Her Loss in our eyes, and "Low"... well, "Low" is a jam, but a more melodic one than a fusion. So it's a tight race, but "Sittin' On Top Of The World" is truly the blend that this category represents.

Best Traditional R&B Performance

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 21: Victoria Monét performs during The Jaguar Tour at Joy Theater on September 21, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kaitlyn Morris/Getty Images)
  • Babyface ft. Coco Jones – "Simple"
  • Kenyon Dixon – "Lucky"
  • Victoria Monét ft. Earth, Wind & Fire & Hazel Monét – "Hollywood"
  • PJ Morton ft. Susan Carol – "Good Morning"
  • SZA – "Love Language"

What Will Win: So, will SZA's sheer stardom get her another win? "Love Language" isn't the most dynamic song in the world vocally, but it's still a solid pick. Once again, Coco Jones surpasses her on the mic, even though her co-lead Babyface doesn't do much on their collab performance-wise. Kenyon Dixon's passion is palpable on "Lucky," and PJ Morton and Susan Carol have the best chemistry here with throwback Motown appeal. "Hollywood" is very tender, but Victoria Monet and her collaborating musicians certainly have more compelling performances on JAGUAR II. It's a hard call to make, but our chips are on Victoria. A legendary band and the main artist's daughter?! That's just good TV waiting to happen.

What Should Win: Going back to the sheer "performance" aspect, we actually think that Kenyon Dixon had the most adept vocal showing here. "Lucky" is a tight bop with gorgeous instrumental swells that shift the chord progressions in evocative ways, and the Los Angeles singer goes from heart-wrenching falsettos to deeper, more charismatic lines. Coco Jones may have the raw technicals on her side, and "Good Morning" has so much chemistry, but Dixon's cut just makes you feel the most inspired and moved out of everything here in our opinion. Yet it's another category where most of the songs make sense as winners.

Read More: Travis Scott, Burna Boy, & More Join Grammy Performers Lineup

Best Rap Performance

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 23: Black Thought of The Roots performs on stage at Hampden Park National Stadium on July 23, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)
  • Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – "The Hillbillies"
  • Black Thought – "Love Letter"
  • Drake & 21 Savage – "Rich Flex"
  • Killer Mike ft. André 3000, Future & Eryn Allen Kane – "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS"
  • Coi Leray – "Players"

What Will Win: All these tracks are so different that it makes predicting this category a bit tough. "Players" has the catchy pop appeal with a flip of a classic, "The Hillbillies" is a really fun back-and-forth, "Rich Flex" is the biggest hit here, and few would argue that anyone on this list is a technically better MC than Black Thought. But going back to the Grammys' love of the midpoint, we think "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS" is a favorite -– in every category it's nominated in, for that matter. Performance-wise, all rappers here deliver distinct verse approaches, flows, and cadences, and by addressing many different styles of popular rap today, yesterday, and tomorrow, they crafted one of the most well-rounded rap songs in recent memory. Perhaps "Love Letter" wins because of its meaning to hip-hop's 50 years, though.

What Should Win: For that very reason, we think that Killer Mike, André 3000, Future, and Eryn Allen Kane deserve the accolade the most when looking at it critically. At a very, very close second is "Love Letter," as Black Thought's rhymes and storytelling are hands-down the best pure hip-hop display here. As far as individual triumph, we think The Roots' frontman takes the cake, but the collaboration on "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS" encapsulates the most versatile and comprehensive collective performance. But we wish "Love Letter" would've received a Best Rap Song nomination as well due to its significance despite a complete lack of an instrumental.

Best R&B Song

Coco Jones performs at KOKO on December 04, 2023 in London, England. (Gus Stewart/Redferns/Getty Images)
  • Halle – "Angel"
  • Robert Glasper ft. SiR & Alex Isley – "Back To Love"
  • Coco Jones – "ICU"
  • Victoria Monét – "On My Mama"
  • SZA – "Snooze"

What Will Win: Again, we have a titanic SZA nomination whose popularity should make it an easy favorite. But there's still steep competition here, namely "On My Mama." It's a catchy and powerful track with great instrumental embellishments that hit big by commercial metrics, and "ICU" is another example of that. "Back To Love" is played and composed really well, but it might fall victim to expectation given its more straightforward but compelling approach. Halle's "Angel" has a fantastic build, albeit melodic retreading from verse to chorus, and a great vocal effort. Five great and worthy tracks all in all, but if they wanted to beat Victoria Monet, then they should've nominated a more evolutionary or passionate song than "Snooze" off of SOS.

What Should Win: Not only do we think "On My Mama" has the best chance to win, but it certainly should. Again, these are all of Grammy quality, and Coco Jones in particular impresses vocally on "ICU." But Victoria Monet just made that classic Recording Academy combo: catchy, successful, meaningful, and widely appealing for good reason. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't at least appreciate something about "On My Mama." As one of the biggest hits off of JAGUAR II, we think it will probably be enough to blur SZA's massive reach -– and deserves to do so. Don't get it mixed up, though: another Solana win would make us very happy, too, and so would any of these other tracks.

Read More: Lil Uzi Vert Is Thrilled About Grammy Nomination: “This Really Means A Lot”

Best Rap Song

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: In this image released on November 10, 2023, Doja Cat kicks off The Scarlet Tour in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Dana Jacobs/Getty Images for Live Nation)
  • Doja Cat – "Attention"
  • Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice ft. Aqua – "Barbie World"
  • Lil Uzi Vert – "Just Wanna Rock"
  • Drake & 21 Savage – "Rich Flex"
  • Killer Mike ft. André 3000, Future & Eryn Allen Kane – "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS"

What Will Win: Once again, "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS" has a little something for everyone, and that's why we think it'll take this Grammy along with Best Rap Performance. "Just Wanna Rock" is a great performance from Uzi, but in terms of songwriting and song structure, it's bizarrely disjointed. Perhaps that interesting change of pace is what gets voters in its corner, but it's a reach and should've landed in another category. "Barbie World" is too indebted to its sample to warrant an edge, and "Attention" and "Rich Flex" just don't have the heft of Killer Mike and his collaborators' song. It's also too perfect of a halfway point between rap snobs and contemporary rap fans, and a trap-style beat doesn't take away from its lyrical appeal.

What Should Win: Yeah, "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS" is the easiest and most agreeable lock across any category, most likely. We wouldn't be mad at "Attention," as Doja Cat certainly deserves it, but no other song fills all the boxes as well as this MICHAEL single. On top of its lyricists' excellent verses and Eryn Allen Kane's soaring proclamations, the progressive beat makes it an undeniably well-crafted and compelling record. Speaking of progressive...

Best Progressive R&B Album

Janelle Monáe performs during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2024 on December 31, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty Images)
  • 6LACK – Since I Have A Lover
  • Diddy – The Love Album: Off The Grid
  • Terrace Martin & James Fauntleroy – Nova
  • Janelle Monáe – The Age Of Pleasure
  • SZA – SOS

What Will Win: SZA. It's SZA. Jokes aside, almost all these albums are Grammy-worthy. Janelle Monae crafted one of the most simply and effectively pleasant (go figure) listening experiences of the year, Terrace Martin and James Fauntleroy might have the most instrumentally rich project here, and 6LACK can still pull off the woozy and cool-as-a-cucumber jams that he warrants acclaim for. But the commercial success, impact, and sheer popularity of SOS as a whole is a gargantuan shadow that looms large over the entire Recording Academy, let alone the R&B categories.

What Should Win: As we hinted at, most of these albums could win, and we'd say, "Cool. Good for them." It would be wild to see Terrace Martin and James Fauntleroy take it amid a cast of juggernauts, at least for the music nerds out there. Still, this category is always quite controversial because of how vaguely the Recording Academy jumbles in a lot of Black artists that they don't bother to properly categorize. Thus, it's impossible to compare these to one another. But that's a think piece for another time. For now, even we can't deny that SZA was so dominant and so beloved for her genre blends and unique takes on R&B that this might go down as the least surprising award of the whole night... well, that and the other categories she's nominated in, of course.

Read More: Diddy Won’t Attend Grammys This Year: Report

Best R&B Album

SUGAR LAND, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 11: Summer Walker performs on stage during the Honeyland Festival at Crown Festival Park on November 11, 2023 in Sugar Land, Texas. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)
  • Babyface – Girls Night Out
  • Coco Jones – What I Didn't Tell You (Deluxe)
  • Emily King – Special Occasion
  • Victoria Monét – JAGUAR II
  • Summer Walker – CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP

What Will Win: Without SZA here, this Grammy race is actually really tight -– maybe the tightest on this whole list. Summer Walker's project was short, but she might be the biggest contemporary superstar here, whereas Babyface is a mainstay with legacy pull. Coco Jones and Victoria Monet are both nominated for Best New Artist, and Emily King aesthetically mixes in creative singer-songwriter elements. Looking at prominence, acclaim, and project quality, we narrowed it down to two. CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP and JAGUAR II are neck-and-neck, and the cynical answer is the former based on its commercial visibility and name recognition.

What Should Win: However, what we hope for is that Victoria Monet takes it, as it's the most cohesive, jam-packed, and consistent album here. Every other project either has weaker tracks that bring it down or is a little too repetitive in its approach to result in a unique album experience. JAGUAR II dances between pop catchiness, funk rhythms, emotional lyrics on family, and much more to make a stellar work that clearly caught the Grammys' eye. With many nominations in other categories, we think Coco Jones and Monet have a really good chance of beating out the cynicism. Regardless, this is a fitting list with a lot of quality, so it's not the most pressing prediction of the night.

Best Rap Album

Metro Boomin at Governors Ball on June 09, 2023 in New York City. (Taylor Hill/WireImage/Getty Images)
  • Drake & 21 Savage – Her Loss
  • Killer Mike – MICHAEL
  • Metro Boomin – HEROES & VILLAINS
  • Nas – King's Disease III
  • Travis Scott – UTOPIA

What Will Win: One of the hardest categories to qualitatively narrow down is strangely easy to predict. Nas beat Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist's Alfredo, D Smoke's Bad Habits, Royce Da 5'9"'s The Allegory, and Jay Electronica and Jay-Z's A Written Testimony in 2021, a legacy lyrical pick that had never gotten an award before despite Esco's magnitude. As such, we'd expect King's Disease III to win, and this context snubs MICHAEL. UTOPIA wasn't nominated in other categories, and again, Her Loss is a gamble considering Drake's past. It's also ironic that MICHAEL and UTOPIA, the two one-word titles, are the only albums that actually came out in 2023.

What Should Win: If we're being honest, Nas' album is the best out of these five when averaging it out: lyricism, song-for-song quality, production, etc. But it would be so awesome to see Metro Boomin earn the first-ever Best Rap Album Grammy for a producer. HEROES & VILLAINS certainly earns that praise: layered and pristine production, the featured guests all have a moment to stun, and bangers like "Superhero" and "Metro Spider" pair well with more low-key or emotive moments like "Trance" or "Feel The Fiyaaaah." The fact it carried so much weight all throughout 2023 is downright impressive, too, and speaks to its resonance. While Nas might've made the better project all things considered, the St. Louis beatsmith has the chance to make history on "music's biggest night," one of the few outcomes that deserve the praise while also living up to that expectation.

Read More: N.W.A. Will Receive Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award In 2024

About The Author
Gabriel Bras Nevares is a music and pop culture news writer for HotNewHipHop. He started in 2022 as a weekend writer and, since joining the team full-time, has developed a strong knowledge in hip-hop news and releases. Whether it’s regular coverage or occasional interviews and album reviews, he continues to search for the most relevant news for his audience and find the best new releases in the genre. What excites him the most is finding pop culture stories of interest, as well as a deeper passion for the art form of hip-hop and its contemporary output. Specifically, Gabriel enjoys the fringes of rap music: the experimental, boundary-pushing, and raw alternatives to the mainstream sound. As a proud native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he also stays up-to-date with the archipelago’s local scene and its biggest musical exponents in reggaetón, salsa, indie, and beyond. Before working at HotNewHipHop, Gabriel produced multiple short documentaries, artist interviews, venue spotlights, and audio podcasts on a variety of genres and musical figures. Hardcore punk and Go-go music defined much of his coverage during his time at the George Washington University in D.C. His favorite hip-hop artists working today are Tyler, The Creator, Boldy James, JPEGMAFIA, and Earl Sweatshirt.