Black Star Power hits supernova levels when the 50th NAACP Image Awards hits live from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on TV One. Names such as Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), H.E.R., Kendrick Lamar, The Carters and more are raising the bar in the game, which earned them nods for “Outstanding Male Artist,” “Outstanding Female Artist,” and “Outstanding Music Video”.
Since restarting Black History Month this March, we have seen our favorites excel in ways that make this year’s extravaganza one not to miss. And unlike the other award shows, Hip-Hop is not only in the building, the culture will be celebrated by the icons and mavens in our industry when the show airs on March 30.
With the nominees for this stellar night announced thanks to the Television Critics Association, we are going to champion the 11 NAACP rap nominees of the past and present to honor them for their service of soundtracking our lives.
1. Childish GambinoSource:WENN
With a trophy case that’s already filled to the brim with hardware, North Atlanta’s own Donald Glover-as-Childish Gambino is nominated for “Outstanding Male Artist” at this year’s ceremony. ‘Atlanta’ and his “Summer Pack” collection did well to whet the appetites of his rabid fans, but celebrating another win from the history-defining creative seems to be on everyone’s list who is watching the 50th annual NAACP Awards.
2. Kendrick LamarSource:WENN
While ‘Black Panther’ made history at the 2019 Oscars, Pulitzer Kenny and SZA’s “All The Stars” was snubbed from the celebration. It is a petty thing to pick apart, but when you’re arguably one of the biggest names in the rap game, you want to take home all the distinctions you can get. Kendrick Lamar is leading an equally star-studded list in the “Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration” category with names like Bruno Mars, H.E.R., and The Carters looking to win as well. The TDE superstar continues to be recognized by the NAACP as “the People’s Champ,” so if he takes home the prize, prepare for a speech that’ll light up your timelines for the rest of the year to come.
3. The CartersSource:Getty
Jay-Z and Beyoncé electrified stadiums around the globe as The Carters. The hip-pop duo merged their collective sounds and styles to give audiophiles an experience not to forget anytime soon. Also nominated in the “Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration” category, the billion dollar couple certainly doesn’t NEED anymore awards, but it can’t hurt none either, right?! Bey-Z seems to be stirring up some more news lately with rumblings of a new solo project from the King of Pop, while her hubby Hov is getting his classic album, ‘The Blueprint’, inducted into the Library of Congress.
4. Big PunSource:Getty
Flashback to the turn of the century, 1999, and we were fearful of Y2K, George “Dubya” Bush, and a whole host of changes. One that was greatly appreciated in the rap game was the late, irreplaceable Christopher Rios. Better known around the world as Big Punisher, the Bronx lyrical juggernaut was poised to be the new crownholder of New York Hip-Hop, which was acknowledged by the NAACP Image Awards when they nominated him for “Best New Artist”. While he would lose out to the then-master of the music world, Lauryn Hill, Pun’s legacy as a breathtaking MC would not be forgotten by the NAACP or the millions of fans who still love him to this day.
The game might not accurately state B.o.B.’s impact nowadays, but it cannot be understated just how important his voice was in Hip-Hop at one point. The Atlanta rapper-singer-songwriter had ended a 10-year-drought where the NAACP wasn’t really vibing with nominated Hip-Hop acts for the Image Awards. ‘Strange Clouds’ had the speakers on lock, and B.o.B. was in the running with Nicki Minaj for “Best New Artist”. They both took home the L thanks to Willow Smith and her cut “21st Century Girl” dominating ears all over the country.
6. Kriss KrossSource:Getty
If you’ll turn the page back to 1993, you see how much Hip-Hop and rap were being ignored by the “mainstream”. The NAACP Image Awards that year had the pleasure of celebrating the changing sound of America from rock and alternative music to R&B and rap, as Jodeci, TLC, and Mary J. Blige joined Arrested Development and Kris Kross for “Best New Artist” awards. The “Tennessee” rap collective would supersede Jermaine Dupri’s teen sensations for the prize, but while the rest of the larger music community was sleeping, it was the NAACP Image Awards that were right there recognizing greatness from the beginning.
7. Missy ElliottSource:Getty
Fresh from her 2002 Grammy win for ‘Under Construction’ (also then the best selling female rap album at the time) — Missy Elliott was continuing to reshape the sound and style of Hip-Hop in her own imaginative way. The game had shied away from Lauryn Hill, and Nicki Minaj was only but a glimmer in Mama Deb’s eye, so it celebrated Missy and her future-retro sound. As “Work It” and “Gossip Folks” dominated airwaves around the country, the NAACP were looking to crown their 2003 “Outstanding Female Artist” Image Award recipient. While that distinction went to India.Arie, Missy didn’t let that stop her and most recently she became the first female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriting Hall of Fame.
8. Lauryn HillSource:Getty
1999 was a banner year for the former Fugee rapper-singer, as Lauryn Hill was continuing to be celebrated for her masterful ‘Miseducation’ album. The NAACP Image Awards were no different, making her the sole distinguished recipient of the “Outstanding Female Artist” award with no other nominated competition! Lauryn would ride that wave of success to infamy with people still flocking to see her live, yet with no new music on the horizon it seems that the NAACP will have to find other ways to honor this supremely talented artist.
9. LL Cool JSource:WENN
Uncle L isn’t no stranger to being awarded by her peers and contemporaries. The two-time Grammy winner has rocked stages from Indiana to Istanbul, yet during the 2003 NAACP Image Awards, he was stacked against a solid deck of rap gawds with Yasiin Bey and Nelly also in the running. 2003 was a fire year for the culture with seminal albums from 50 Cent (‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’’), J Dilla (‘Ruff Draft’), and T.I. (‘Trap Muzik’), but no one could rock the bells better than LL, who took home the 2003 Image Award for “Outstanding Male Artist.”
Creativity was at an all-time high when Outkast were running the airwaves. They kicked in the door for black-and-brown artists in Atlanta and around the world, making themselves icons in the process. Big Boi and André 3000 were riding high from the Diamond selling album, ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’, when the NAACP rewarded them with an Image Award for “Outstanding Duo or Group”. The two dope boyz from the Souf were showcasing just how far out Hip-Hop could be if one would just free their mind. Fast forward to today, and they are still influencing the game in their most impactful way.
11. Chance the Rapper headlining Day One of Wireless Festival 2017Source:WENN
Who doesn’t exude #BlackExcellence better than Chance The Rapper? The recently wedded father and Grammy Award winner has racked up more wins than the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and Orlando Magic combined. From helping out the homeless to creating a safe space for teens in Chicago, Lil Chano from the 79th has taken the original credences of Hip-Hop culture and made it cool to supportive of a cause. These tenets are also things that the NAACP embody and personify, and in 2017, Chance had the shot at getting his name engraved on an Image Award. The distinction went to R&B legend Maxwell, but the streets know just how loyal to the soil the Chicago artist is. #ChanceForChange2020 x Image Awards, we’re calling it here first!