Sometimes I wish the music business was a little more like Pokémon. When you’re a flying type, you’re a flying type. When you’re a fire type there are some pretty baseline rules for being fire type—like producing a flame of some kind. But in the business of music and award show categorization the lines blur like that Robin Thicke fiasco from a few years back. When trying to balance the realities of music consumption with the need to attract viewers, the gerrymandering of categories can become a shell game of epic proportions, and the VMAS are no different. Do we really need gender based separation of categories? And why do singers like Bryson Tiller get lumped into the hip-hop category while others like Anderson .Paak go completely ignored? We’ve got questions but not many answers. However, we’re here to help you make sense of it all even if we can’t.
If you are setting up a game of VMAs Bingo here are the 7 hip-hop artists up for VMA’s and 6 more artists we think they overlooked.
Drake “Hotline Bling” (Video Of The Year, Best Male, Best Hip Hop Video)
With this sole clip from the record-breaking Views to see the light of day, Drake fulfills his dream of becoming a fully sentient meme. Like any successful interloper, Aubry overcome the DRAM song-appropriation scandal with sheer brute force of ubiquity. The OVO boss’s special brand of passive aggressive adoration was as catchy as it was borderline stalker-ish resulting in endless parodies and a T-Mobile commercial. He’ll most likely walk away with Best Hip Hop video with Best Male going to Kanye.
Kanye West “Famous” (Video Of The Year, Best Male)
The now infamous narcoleptic wet dream stripped some boldface names of their clothing and consciousness to make a grand statement on celebrity. But make no mistake that this was still all about Kanye, who lays literally and figuratively in the center of the toga party aftermath. Ray J was none too happy with it and Taylor Swift has come out as the only unwilling participant sending her 7-year cold war with Yeezus into extra innings. It’s strong enough to take the Best Male category but this isn’t messing with Queen Bey for Video of The Year.
Beyonce F/ Kendrick Lamar, “Freedom” (Best collaboration)
The irony of this song is that despite its title, it’s locked away in the Tidal castle guarded by a paywall and a moat. Kendrick should be applauded for simply not being swallowed whole by the dominating presence of Beyonce and this incendiary Just Blaze rhythm construction, which is essentially a riot in a box. “Work” will more than likely take home the “Best Collaboration” trophy but this clip is worth a Tidal subscription—or at least creating a new temp account with that old Yahoo! email address you created just for Tinder.
Desiigner, “Panda” (Best Hip Hop Video)
If Drake is a meme, Desiigner is an emoji for uncompromising joy. The teenager from Brooklyn wrapped a depressing soliloquy of criminal ambition in a capsule of aural lithium. But all of that was overshadowed by a hypnotic, non sequitur chant comparing his car to endangered monochromatic mammals. And even the song would just be radio pap if it weren’t for Desiigner turning is live shows into stop motion Ernie Barne’s paintings with his spastic gyrations. Even when “Panda” was hijacked and sandwiched within the folds of Kanye’s perpetual music thesis, The Life Of Pablo, it could not be contained. The video attempted to touch upon the songs true dark intentions with its Grand Theft Auto stylings but the real take away is that this kid is literally and figuratively driven and isn’t going anywhere soon.
Rihanna F/Drake “Work” (Best Female, Best Collaboration)
It’s a testament to the Pop heights that Rihanna has attained when fans and writers clamor to categorize a clearly Caribbean song by a woman from Barbados. But if you still had any doubts about the roots of this hit and Rihanna, the video takes it back to a smokey, rum soaked bashment complete with RiRi grinding seductively in a colorful see-thru net dress. Oh, and Drake was there, too.
Chance The Rapper “Angels” (Best Hip Hop video)
This song is cute but we all know that “No Problem” is the song/video that should have gotten the nom. But maybe it was too much for them to celebrate an indie artist who is strong arming the industry on his own terms and declared that he’ll have dreads in the lobby if they try to stop his heaven sent momentum.
2 Chainz “Watch Out” (Best hip-hop video)
We’re going to take the high road and assume this was 2 Chainz paying an homage to his old DTP comrade Ludacris, as opposed to being a subliminal thumbing of the nose. Nevertheless, the bighead steez is the perfect complement to this minimal but effective humblebrag. Speaking of the subliminal genius, does the opening piano make anyone else think of the trap parody “Read A Book”?
Bryson Tiller “Don’t” (Best New Artist, Best Hip-Hop video)
The singer from Kentucky is the latest in that lineage of “singing in my Timbs because I’m no punk” R&B artists who moonlight as rappers. This ode to doing the things your man won’t do is definitely cribbed from the 90’s playbook, but has a definite unapologetic “sliding in your DMs” flavor of an 80s baby. We’d say he was a lock for Best New Artist but we have no idea who the other groups are in this category besides Desiigner.
And here are a couple of our favs that we think they missed…
Vic Mensa, “There’s Alot Going On” (Best Male, Best Hip-Hop)
NxWorries (Anderson.Paak Knxwledge) (Best New Artist)
Kendrick Lamar “These Walls” (Best Hip-Hop, Best Male)
Fat Joe, Remy Ma – “All The Way Up” (Best Collab, Best Hip-Hop)
Royce Da 5’ 9 Tabernacle (Best Hip-Hop, Best Male)
Kaytranada f/ Aanderson .Paak “Glo’d Up” (Best New Artist)