Where Does the Best Hip Hop Come From? A Look at Previous Grammy Winners

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An often argued topic among hip hop heads is where does the best hip hop or rap originated from? Is it from the swagger rap from the east coast such as Nas, Jay Z or Eminem? Or is it from the gang influenced struggle rap from the west coast such as Tupac, Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre? Perhaps it is from the overlooked “Dirty South” with narcotic inspired lyrics by those like Lil Wayne, UGK and Future? This is surely a debate that will never be resolved, but by looking at the previous winners for Best Rap Album of the Year, it will be clearer to determine who dominates pop culture hip hop.

The Grammys began handing out rap album of the year in 1996 and its inaugural winner was Naughty by Nature for their album Poverty’s Paradise which peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200. Since then the award has been spread throughout the country from the east to the south and now finds itself in Compton after Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly secured the award in 2016.

Taking a look at this table which shows each Grammy Winner for Best Rap Album since its debut makes it a lot clearer to determine where mainstream rap holds its supremacy.

Winner Album Origin
Naughty by Nature Poverty’s Paradise East Orange, NJ
Fugees The Score South Orange, NJ
Diddy No Way Out Harlem, NY
Jay Z Vol.2…Hard Knock Life Brooklyn, NY
Eminem The Slim Shady LP Detroit, Michigan
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP Detroit, Michigan
Outkast Stankonia Atlanta, Georgia
Eminem The Eminem Show Detroit, Michigan
Outkast Speakerboxx/ The Love Below Atlanta, Georgia
Kanye West The College Dropout Chicago, Illinois
Kanye West Late Registration Chicago, Illinois
Ludacris Release Therapy Atlanta, Georgia
Kanye West Graduation Chicago, Illinois
Lil Wayne Tha Carter III New Orleans, Louisiana
Eminem Relapse Detroit, Michigan
Eminem Recovery Detroit, Michigan
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Chicago, Illinois
Drake Take Care Toronto, Ontario
Macklemore The Heist Seattle, Washington
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Detroit, Michigan
Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly Compton, California

When it comes to mainstream rap that conveys to a common denominator, the Grammys tell us that the east coast reigns supreme. There are four winners for the state of New York and six for Eminem alone in Detroit. Southern rap is runner up with four winners for efforts by Lil Wayne, Outkast and Ludacris. West coast rap is noticeably disrespected by the Grammys as their only win came from Kendrick Lamar’s soulful To Pimp a Butterfly.

To better visualize the results, here is map to locate the origins of all Grammy winners.

This is by no way a means to end the discussion to which state produces the best hip hop art but is a way of determining which hip hop attracts the interest of the mainstream audience. New York rap has two times the more favourable odds of securing Best Rap Album of the Year over southern rap or west coast rap. This is likely because the voters of these awards are often the mainstream audience and not your typical baseball cap wearing hip hop head.

It may be argued that in today’s generation, southern Atlanta rap is hotter than it’s ever been it is still highly unlikely that Future or Travis Scott will be accepting a Grammy anytime soon. Hot hip hop changes its mind more than a female going through her first high school relationship, one day the south may be flooding radio waves but by the next month an east coast single has taken back its throne on top of the charts. By looking at the data above, one thing that remains constant is that east coast hip hop has remained to last throughout it all, with lyricism remaining to be the one true extract of hip hop, never seeming to fade away no matter how good west coast or southern hip hop appears to sound on your car stereo.

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