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Hip-hop scores big with Grammy

OutKast, Jay-Z, Pharrell get six nominations each for awards
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rap and R&B have been consistent chart-toppers for the last few years, but in 2003 they took over pop music — and the Grammy nominations on Thursday.

The year's top-selling artist: rapper 50 Cent. Two of the year’s biggest hits came from R&B singer Beyonce. In October, every spot on Billboard’s top 10 singles chart was held by a rap or R&B artist.

Grammy voters took notice, doling out six nominations each to Beyonce, Jay-Z, OutKast and Pharrell Williams.

“Hip-hop is at its most commercial point,” Andre 3000 of the rap duo OutKast told The Associated Press. “It’s pretty poppy, and it’s popular this year.”

Five nominations apiece went to Missy Elliott, Eminem, Evanescence, 50 Cent, Chad Hugo, Ricky Skaggs, Justin Timberlake, the ailing Luther Vandross and the late Warren Zevon.

Four of the five nominees for record of the year fell into the rap or R&B category: Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” “Where Is The Love,” by The Black Eyed Peas & Justin Timberlake, “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem and “Hey Ya!” from OutKast. The brooding rock group Coldplay’s song “Clocks” was the only exception.

And rap and R&B also dominated the album of the year category: Missy Elliott’s “Under Construction”; “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast; and “Justified,” from Timberlake, which had the former boy-band star reach into R&B for his first solo effort. The White Stripes’ “Elephant” and “Fallen” from goth rockers Evanescence rounded out the category.

However, in somewhat of a surprise, 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which sold more than 6 million copies, was shut out of the major categories. It was nominated exclusively for rap awards, although 50 Cent himself was nominated for best new artist, along with Evanescence, R&B singer Heather Headley, the alt-pop group Fountains of Wayne and the dancehall artist Sean Paul.

Beyonce’s nominations were no real surprise — her solo debut apart from Destiny’s Child, “Crazy in Love, has sold more than two million copies and made her a superstar. Jay-Z’s “Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse” was also a multiplatinum disc, and OutKast’s highly acclaimed “SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below” was mentioned as a Grammy favorite even before its release this fall.

Unlike the other leading nominees, Pharrell — rhymes with “sell” — is not a household name.

Yet he had just as much of a presence on the music charts — or perhaps more — than any of his counterparts this year. His ubiquitous falsetto was featured on the hits “Frontin”’ with Jay-Z and “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg; he wrote or co-wrote hits for artists like Justin Timberlake; and, along with cohort Hugo, he produced for a variety of artists, including Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J.

While Pharrell and Hugo have been making innovative hits for the past few years, they weren’t nominated for any major awards last year because the various record companies they recorded for didn’t submit their names for consideration.

This year, after helping to the announce the Grammy nominations, Pharrell said the awards made him feel “validated.”

“It’s recognition for all the hard work that we put into it. And if we never win anything and never get nominated again I can go to a book somewhere in somebody’s library and see our name — I’m validated.”

Vandross’ nominations — his first in any major category — came in his most difficult year. The R&B crooner suffered a debilitating stroke in April, two months before the release of his new album, “Dance With My Father.” The album went on to become Vandross’ fastest-selling disc.

Sentimentality may have also been a factor in the nominations for Zevon. The wry musician, best known for songs like “Werewolves of London” and “Excitable Boy,” recorded his final album, “The Wind,” as he was battling lung cancer. It was released this summer to critical acclaim, and he died less than a month later.