Chance the Rapper inadvertently set the course of history on Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam." Over the weekend, a petition to make free albums and mixtapes eligible for Grammy nominations surfaced with Chance the Rapper serving as its marquee name. As you might recall, this request arrives on the heels of Chance’s telling statement on Kanye's The Life of Pablo standout, wherein he raps, "Let's do a good ass job with Chance 3, I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy." Now jumping from rhyme to life, the notion appears clear enough to potentially spark a change.
As any fan of rap and R&B will tell you, there are more memorable mixtapes and free releases than albums. Over the past five years, free-releases like The Weekend's House of Balloons, Kendrick Lamar's Section.80, Chano's own Acid Rap, as well as something like Future's 56 Nights have outlasted actual albums that went up for Grammy honors.
So as the dust piles over the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' outdated bylaw, which states that music should be "commercially released in general distribution in the United States," we went a step ahead into the future. A future where this Change.org petition materializes into a change, allowing for free projects, released within the Academy's submission window (October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016), to be eligible for nominations at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
As a heads up, this list only includes projects that arrived online for free.
Erykah Badu's But You Caint Use Me Phone
Neo-soul priestess delivers an audio dish that, since its November release, keeps calling. Reinventing the wheel, Badu’s phone-centric mixtape takes the best of yesteryear and revitalizes it into a new groove that she herself describes as "Trap &B." Overall, Badu exudes nothing less than excitement and appreciation, as she embraces the sounds of today while incorporating her own psychedelic soul spin.
Future's Purple Reign
As his first 2016 offering, Future set the tone on Purple Reign, marrying his paranoia and drug-induced meditation with shivering, sleepwalking production. From the sinister opener of "All Right" to the pensive title track, Fewtch delivers a solid project that showcases a man on the verge of changing the rap paradigm. "This continental and it's panoramic/ It's complimentary to the savages."
Puff Daddy & The Family's MMM
Famously coined as a "sonic motion picture," Puff Daddy & The Family deliver a succinct, cohesive, and electric project that plays like the dream sequel to the "Paid In Full" movie. The sonic composite of sipping nutcracker in a champagne glass, Puff rounds up the best of the best for a project that certainly deserved a UPC label.
Nick Grant's 88
And the nomination for "This Is Who You Need To Watch" goes to…
The young bull Nick Grant showed and proved on his debut mixtape 88, a project that pays homage to art of hip-hop, while showcasing his abilities to take things a step further in the genre. With wordplay great enough to rubberneck at ("I Want the World") and a delivery that is nothing short of entertaining, 88 is a portrait of a real MC delivering a refreshingly real MC quality album.
Young Thug's Slime Season 3
Young Thug wrapped up his Slime Season series with a fitting bow that is packed with all the elements that have elevated him to stand as one of the leading stars within rap's new breed. The opener "I'm Up" sets the tone, as Thugger summarizes his buzz and potential in one line: "I make this shit fly out the ceiling nigga/ I'm hot like an eye on a skillet nigga (ya dig)."