Annal: 2004 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album

Results of the Grammy Award in the year 2004.

Album:The College Dropout

The College Dropout

Kanye West

This debut from the most sought-after hip-hop producer not named Pharrell delivers the unthinkable: West magically sledgehammers home his opinions on taboo topics over beats that are equally daring. The envelope-ripping beats shouldn’t come as a surprise given that he’s supplied the soundscapes to monster singles by everyone from Alicia Keys (“You Don’t Know My Name”) to Talib Kweli (“Get By”). What is freakish is that in West’s world, rhymes about strippers, God, college life, and guns can co-exist tidily and not undermine each other. On “Breathe In Breathe Out”…

Album:The Black Album

The Black Album

Jay-Z

If The Black Album is truly Jay-Z’s last statement before retirement, he at least goes out near the top of his game. While it probably won’t be remembered as his best album, The Black Album is his most personal to date and features some of his most compelling writing. Jay-Z is defiant and defensive here—he’s trying to make sure his legacy is properly acknowledged, although he can get a bit heavy-handed at times. Still, he’s rarely been more incisive or insightful in his rhymes, exposing his own childhood struggles on songs like “December 4th”…

Album:The DEFinition

The DEFinition

LL Cool J

Can LL still make a case for being the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time)? Well, let’s just say that this position is becoming more difficult to defend. Enlisting the talents of Timbaland to sonically sculpt most of his 11th record is a wise move. The hook-driven jump-off “Headsprung” fits perfectly into its current urban-music landscape. Conceptually, “Move Somethin’” reveals that LL can still flip nouveau rap flows when called upon. The problem is that LL Cool J long ago decided to stop being “hard as hell,” instead allowing his R&B-rapper persona to creep…

Album:Suit

Suit

Nelly

The biggest (and only relevant) member of the St. Lunatics crew fully indulges his rap-meets-R&B fixations on the enjoyable (if predictable) Suit. Whereas companion CD Sweat is geared toward the male thugs in the clubs, this one’s for the thugettes. More lyrically compelling than Sweat, Suit shows a softer, more cerebral, less flashy side to St. Louis’s favorite son. Check out “Die for You,” Nelly’s ode to youth, and the calypso-tinged, introspective “In My Life,” which reveals a more worldly rap duke underneath the band aids and…

Album:To The 5 Boroughs

To The 5 Boroughs

Beastie Boys

The hiatus is back off, again, for the Beastie Boys, and music lovers will bob their heads with insuppressible glee. With its Nice & Smooth impersonations and shout outs to Brooklyn's Albee Square Mall, To the 5 Boroughs, their first album in six years, harkens the return of the trio to the city that made them who they are today. It's an up-tempo yet surprisingly homogenous assemblage of vintage electro-style party beats, and it's a strictly Beastie affair: the Boys co-wrote and produced each track themselves, which means that it sports none of the sonic fripperies and quirky collaborations that distinguished previous classics such as Paul's Boutique. Finally jelling after two years of on-again, off-again recording, To the 5 Boroughs will appeal to those fans old enough to remember the Licensed to Ill tour. Those old-schoolers are sure to appreciate the album's mostly off-the-cuff lyrics and minimal-to-the-extreme musical landscape--even if its stripped-down sound may leave others longing for the days when the Boys were California dreamin'. --Rebecca Levine

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