Anthems and opuses from hip-hop's big guns and breakthrough stars

best RAP album

Take Care
LABEL: Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records
PRODUCERS: Noah "40" Shebib, Boi-1da, Carlo Montagnese, the Weeknd, Jamie "XX" Smith, Dwayne Chin-Quee, T-Minus, Just Blaze, Drake, Chase N. Cashe, Doc McKinney, Chantal Kreviazuk
ENGINEERS/MIXERS:Les Bateman, Noel Campbell, Noel Cadastre, Travis Sewchan, Greg Morrison, Noah "40" Shebib, Jon Nettlesbey, David Strickland, Sean Buchanan, Becky Campbell, Sam Holland, Andrew Wright, Just Blaze, Drew White, Lyttleton Carter, Elizabeth Gallardo

With three nods this time, rap wunderkind Drake brings his total number of Grammy nominations to 12. The other two: best rap song for "The Motto" and best rap performance for "HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right)." Take Care -- the follow-up to Grammy-nominated first album Thank Me Later -- debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, spinning off three hit singles: "Headlines," "Make Me Proud" and "The Motto."

Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
Lupe Fiasco
LABEL: 1st & 15th/Atlantic Records
PRODUCERS: The Audibles, the B-Sides, Bilal, Julian Bunetta, Larrance Dopson, Lupe Fiasco, the Futuristiks, Infamous, King David, Klypso, Mr. Inkredible, Poo Bear, Pro-Jay, Jamal Rashid, the Runners, Severe, Simonsayz, Soundtrakk, 1500 or Nothin', Famties & Bullit, Jason Boyd, Guy Sebastian

Grammy winner Lupe Fiasco follows up three nominations for Lasers last year (best rap album; best rap song and best rap performance for "The Show Must Go On") with this nod for the cerebral rapper's fourth studio album. Food & Liquor II is the sequel to 2006 debut Food & Liquor, which scored three Grammy nominations. II topped Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap Albums charts, while debuting and peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Its tracks include "Bitch Bad" and "Battle Scars."

Life Is Good
LABEL: Def Jam
PRODUCERS:Salaam Remi, No. I.D., J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Rodney Jerkins, DJ Hot Day, Swizz Beatz, Buckwild, Heavy D, Da Internz, Noah "40" Shebib
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Rob Kinselski, Gleyder "GEE" Disla, Rich Keller, Manny Marroquin, Jaycen Joshua, Gary Noble, Noah "40" Shebib

Rap icon Nas hasn't stopped since his breakthrough -- and still influential -- 1994 debut album, Illmatic. No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Rap Albums charts, Life Is Good gave Nas not only his sixth No. 1 album but also four nominations in the Grammy derby. In addition to best rap album, the rapper has nods for best rap song and best rap performance (both for "Daughters") and best rap/sung collaboration ("Cherry Wine," featuring Amy Winehouse).

The Roots
LABEL: Island Def Jam
PRODUCERS: Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Ray Angry, Khari Mateen, Brent "Ritz" Reynolds, James Poyser, Richard Nichols, Sean C & LV, Rick Friedrich, Sufjan Stevens, D.D. Jackson
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Steve Mandel, Chris Sciafani, Jason Goldstein, John Morgan, Mark Bengston, Sufjan Stevens

Together since 1987 and the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" since 2009, the Roots have won four Grammys. Three of those were awarded in 2011: best R&B group or duo vocal performance ("Shine"), best traditional R&B vocal performance ("Hang on in There" with John Legend) and best R&B album ( Wake Up!). Undun, the band's 13th project, claimed No. 2 on Rap Albums and debuted and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200.

God Forgives, I Don't
Rick Ross
LABEL: Maybach/Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam
PRODUCERS: Got Koke, Ke'Noe, Jake One, Cool & Dre, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Cardiak, G5Kid, Young Shun, the Beat Bully, Pharrell Williams, Reefa, Pierre Medor, Rico Love
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Alexander Dilliplane, Matthew Desremeaux, Nate Burgess, Mauricio Iragorri, Dr. Dre, Fabian Marasciullo, Leslie Brathwaite, Nikolas Marzouka, Robert Marks

The Miami MC receives his first Grammy nomination for his fifth album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Rap Albums charts, selling 218,000 first-week copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set includes the No. 15 Rap Songs hit "Touch'N You," featuring Usher, and current single "Diced Pineapples," featuring Drake and Wale. This is Ross' fourth No. 1 album.

Based on a T.R.U. Story
2 Chainz
LABEL: Def Jam
PRODUCERS: Matthew Burnett, Streetrunner, Southside, Bangladesh, Mike Will Made It, Marz, Noah "40" Shebib, Sonny Digital, Kanye West, B Wheezy, Anthony Kilhoffer, Lifted, Mike Dean, Dijon "DJ Mustard" McFarlane, the-Dream, YoungStarr Beatz, Got Koke, Ke'Noe, Christopher "Drumma Boy" Gholson, Lil' Ronnie, Mike Posner, Carlos Broady
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Jack Brown, J.D. Butler, Michael Cadahia, Noel Cadastre, Ariel Chobaz, Noah Goldstein, Jaycen Joshua, Anthony Kilhoffer, Andre Lipscomb, Fabian Marasciullo, Bart Schoudel, Noah "40" Shebib, Antea Shelton, Stephen Townsend, Fernando Vivanco, Finis White

A former member of Southern hip-hop duo Playaz Circle, 2 Chainz caps his breakout year as a solo artist with his first Grammy nominations. In addition to best rap album for his solo debut, he's up for best rap performance and best rap song as a co-writer and as a performer on the hit single "Mercy." Based on a T.R.U. Story debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Rap Albums charts. Track highlights include six-week No. 1 Rap Songs single "No Lie," featuring Drake, and "I'm Different."

best RAP song


FROM: Life Is Good
SONGWRITER: Nasir Jones, Ernest Wilson, Patrick Adams, Gary DeCarlo, Dale Frashuer, Paul Leka
PUBLISHERS:Rich Daily Since '71, Universal Music Publishing Group, Unichappell Music
LABEL: Def Jam

Nas' frank and personal reflections on being a single father who's raising a daughter power this third single from the rapper's Life Is Good. Produced by No I.D., the song samples Cloud One's 1979 song "Dust to Dust" and Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy's 1970 track "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" and is also in the running for best rap performance.

"Lotus Flower Bomb"
Wale featuring Miguel

FROM: Ambition
SONGWRITERS: Olubowale Akintimehin, S. Joseph Dew, Jerrin Howard, Walker Johnson, Miguel Jontel Pimentel
PUBLISHERS: WB Music/Deadstock Music/Jerrin Howard/Miguel Jontel Pimentel Publishing/Fusician Publishing
LABEL: Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros.

A sultry groove coupled with Wale's mesmerizing flow and Miguel's smooth-as-silk tenor are the focal points of this seductive love ballad. Selected as the lead single from Wale's sophomore studio album, Ambition, the Jerrin Howard-produced song spent five weeks at No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and rose to No. 3 on Rap Songs.

Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz

FROM: Kanye West Presents G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer
SONGWRITERS:Sean Anderson, Tauheed Epps, Stephan Taft, James Thomas, Terrence Thornton, Kanye West
PUBLISHERS: Please Gimme My Publishing/EMI Blackwood/RLFG Music/FF to Def Publishing/Neighborhood Pusha/Sony ATV Songs/Ty Epps Music/Copyright Control/Roynet Music/Dub Plate Music
LABEL: G.O.O.D. Music/Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

Competing against himself last year in this category with two nominations (2011 winner "All of the Lights" and "Otis"), Kanye West finds himself in the same situation (see "N****s in Paris"). "Mercy," set off by a driving beat and colorful braggadocio, spent nine weeks at No. 1 on Rap Songs. "Mercy," also up for best rap performance, gives Big Sean and 2 Chainz their first Grammy nods, with the latter also in play for best rap album.

"The Motto"
Drake featuring Lil Wayne

FROM: Take Care
SONGWRITERS: Dwayne Carter, Aubrey Graham, Tyler Williams
PUBLISHERS: Warner/Chappell Music, Kobalt Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing
LABEL: Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records

Drake's infectious ode to his philosophy on life -- you only live once (YOLO) -- reigned at No. 1 on Rap Songs for 14 weeks and two weeks on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. "The Motto" is one of 10 No. 1s Drake has placed on the latter tally during the last three years. The Canadian rapper received his first nomination in this category in 2010 for "Best I Ever Had."

"N****s in Paris"
Jay-Z & Kanye West

FROM: Watch the Throne
SONGWRITERS: Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, Kanye West, W.A. Donaldson
PUBLISHERS: Hit-Boy Music/Very Good Beats, Hip Hop Since 1978, Dean's List Productions, Unichappell Music
LABEL: Def Jam

During their Watch the Throne tour, Jay-Z and Kanye West began performing their club anthem an increasing number of times, culminating with 12 consecutive times at a Paris show last June. Produced by Hit-Boy, the song racked up 10 weeks at No. 1 on Rap Songs and is nominated for best rap performance. Jay-Z and West are also up for best rap/sung collaboration for "No Church in the Wild" with Frank Ocean and the-Dream.

"Young, Wild & Free"
Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars

FROM: Mac and Devin Go to High School: Music From and Inspired By the Movie
SONGWRITER: Calvin Broadus, Chris Brody Brown, Phillip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Peter Hernandez, Cameron Thomaz, T. Bluechel, M. Borrow, T. Griffin, K. Jackson, N. Lee, M Newman
PUBLISHERS: My Own Chit Publishing/EMI Blackwood, PGH Sound, Mars Force Music/Roc Nation Music, Toy Plane Music-Universal Music, Westside Independent, WB Music, Late 80's Music, Beechwood Music, BMG Platinum, Rebellion Corps.
LABEL:Atlantic Records

Snoop Dogg claimed his highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 hit as a lead artist since 2008 with this bright and carefree opus. In addition to reaching No. 7 on that chart, the track soared to No. 4 on Rap Songs. This nomination brings Snoop Dogg's career total to 14. Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars were nominees last year as well.