A Look at the Best Rap Performance Nominees at the 2024 Grammy Awards

The Recording Academy presents three different awards for hip-hop songs at each annual Grammy Awards ceremony: Best Rap Song, Best Melodic Rap Performance, and Best Rap Performance. While it’s easy to tell what separates Best Melodic Rap Performance from the other two, many music fans often have trouble differentiating between Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.

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Best Rap Song, per the Academy, is “A Songwriter(s) Award,” which honors the writers of a song more than it does the actual artist(s). Conversely, Best Rap Performance is more focused on the song’s lead artist(s), and their particular performance(s) of the song.

For the 2024 Grammys, veteran artists like Drake, Killer Mike, André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, and Black Thought all earned nominations in the Best Rap Performance category, along with more ripe acts like Coi Leray, Baby Keem, and 21 Savage. Below, we gave a breakdown of each song up for the award.

1. “The Hillbillies,” Baby Keem feat. Kendrick Lamar

Since the release of his highly-anticipated Summer 2022 album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, iconic California rapper Kendrick Lamar has only put out one song. Titled “The Hillbillies,” Lamar dropped the single as a surprise in May, with it including a feature appearance from his cousin and blossoming MC Baby Keem.

On each of their recent full-length projects, Keem and Lamar found ways to incorporate each other into their track lists, whether it was “family ties” and “range brothers” on Keem’s The Melodic Blue (2021), or “Savior (Interlude)” and “Savior” on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. In part, this has served to introduce their new creative brand/record label pgLang, founded and run by Lamar.

As their artistic relationship has continued to grow, “The Hillbillies” is just another example of the cousins’ electric chemistry. Over the clanky, busy production, the duo finds charming, eccentric flow patterns for their raps, all highlighted by their infectious We gon’ fuck up the world hook.

If victorious, this would give Lamar his eighteenth Grammy Award and Keem his second.

2. “Love Letter,” Black Thought

In honor of the 50-year anniversary of hip-hop, BET recruited The Roots’ prolific rapper Black Thought to rattle off a four-minute “Love Letter” to the genre. With slick lyricism and thorough detail, Black Thought eloquently conveyed the significance of rap on not only the music industry but street culture as well. All throughout the lengthy, singular verse, the 50-year-old MC tells about how hip-hop’s members were cold-blooded and had no budget, but still became raw.

We learned to utilize our credentials
And how to maximize the potential to build brands

Laying a proper ground work’s essential to go
From Public Enemy to Tribe Called Quest
To JAY-Z, Diddy, Pharrell, Drake, or Kanye West

This is Black Thought’s first-ever solo nomination at the Grammy Awards, as he has won three awards from the Academy as a member of The Roots.

3. “Rich Flex,” Drake & 21 Savage

A fiery intro for their November 2022 joint album Her Loss, “Rich Flex” sees Drake utilize a never-before-seen playful charisma for his now-iconic 21, can you do somethin’ for me? hook.

Upon release, the song exploded on TikTok and social media, along with peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

On top of Best Rap Performance, Drake and 21 Savage earned three other nominations this year stemming from Her Loss, with the album being a nominee for Best Rap Album, “Rich Flex” also being a nominee for Best Rap Song, and “Spin Bout U” being a nominee for Best Melodic Rap Performance. If victorious in any category, this would be Drake’s sixth Grammy Award and 21 Savage’s second.

[RELATED: A Look at the Best Rap Song Nominees for the 2024 Grammys]

4. “Scientists & Engineers,” Killer Mike feat. André 3000, Future and Eryn Allen Kane

Earlier this year, Atlanta old-timer Killer Mike introduced his new Michael album with its lead single “Scientists & Engineers.” Including contributions from his close friend André 3000, new generation ATL phenom Future, and vocal angel Eryn Allen Kane, Mike’s track immediately became a standout for the entire hip-hop landscape in 2023.

Promoting his first solo album in 11 years, “Scientists & Engineers” truly displays versatility and daring creativity from Mike, which are impressive traits to possess at this stage of his career.

Along with Best Rap Performance, the hit is also nominated in the Best Rap Song category. Additionally, Michael is a nominee for Best Rap Album. If victorious for any of these three, Mike will earn his first Grammy Award as a lead artist.

5. “Players,” Coi Leray

Though hip-hop encountered many full circle moments in 2023, on account of the 50-year anniversary celebrations, the popularity of Coi Leray’s “Players” was especially significant.

Sampling Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s 1982 hit “The Message,” “Players” is a tremendous demonstration of Leray’s melodic prowess and catchy songwriting, evident in the bout to catch another flight hook that’s been stuck in listeners’ heads all year long.

At the height of its virality, “Players” peaked at No. 26 on the Hot 100, and earned a remix with Busta Rhymes in March. If victorious, this would be Leray’s first Grammy award.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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