Lupe's bustin' out

December 8, 2006


  • The long-reigning Queen of Hip-Hop Soul was crowned anew Thursday when nominations for the 49th annual Grammy Awards were announced in Los Angeles and Mary J. Blige led the pack with eight nods for her 2005 album "The Breakthrough."

    Long-running punk-funk band the Red Hot Chili Peppers scored six nominations. Other multiple nominees included soft-pop icons James Blunt and John Mayer, country-pop act the Dixie Chicks, R&B great Prince, producer Rick Rubin, the Black Eyed Peas', DJ Danger Mouse and composer John Williams, who garnered five nominations each.

    R&B artists Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Bryan-Michael Cox; Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse's genre-hopping collaboration with Cee-Lo Green; gospel musician Israel Houghton, and rapper T.I. each collected four nominations.

    The big news locally was Lupe Fiasco, who followed in Kanye West's footsteps and made Chicago hip-hop history by claiming three nominations for his debut album "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor."

    The 24-year-old rapper had just landed for a layover in Minneapolis while flying between concerts in New Mexico and Pennsylvania when his cell phone started buzzing. "I got this series of messages as soon as I put my phone back on," he said. "It was, 'You got a Grammy nomination!' And then it was, 'And another!' And finally, I was like, 'Oh, snap! I got three Grammy nominations!' "

    Fiasco, who grew up as Wasalu Muhammad Jaco in the shadow of the South Side's Madison Terrace public housing complex, is vying for best rap album as well as best rap solo performance and best rap song for "Kick, Push," his indelible single about skateboarding. The good news followed GQ magazine naming him "Breakout Man of the Year" last week.

    "These two things capped the year for me," Fiasco said. "The Grammys overtake GQ musically, but to have both things happen within two weeks is really crazy. It's like sensory overload, and I'm just coasting through it!"

    Sounding for a moment like the ever-boastful West, Fiasco said the Grammy nods didn't come as a surprise. "The masses of my fans expected it -- like if I didn't get it, it would be a travesty of justice."

    But he quickly added, "I haven't sold a billion records, and I haven't had a monster hit on radio, so to have this happen over people who are selling millions of records, well, I don't think I can get any higher than that."

    Other nominees with ties to Chicago include Donald Lawrence, leader of the Tri-City Singers (best gospel song, best gospel performance and best traditional gospel album, "Finale Act One"); gospel act the Caravans (best traditional gospel album for "Paved the Way," recorded at Chicago's West Point Baptist Church); producer E-Smoove (best remixed recording, non-classical, "World Hold On"); Ministry (best metal performance, "Lies, Lies, Lies"), and OK Go (best short form music video, "Here It Goes Again"). Competing once again for best polka album are Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones and Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push.

    In the classical realm, Bernard Haitink, principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was nominated for best classical album for "Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9," recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. And the Chicago Chamber Musicians were singled out for best chamber music performance for "Chamber Works for Winds and Strings by Mozart."

    When the awards are handed out at L.A.'s Staples Center on Feb. 11 and telecast live on WBBM-Channel 2, the contenders for the top prize of album of the year will be Blige, the Dixie Chicks ("Taking the Long Way"), Gnarls Barkley ("St. Elsewhere"), Mayer ("Continuum"), the Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Stadium Arcadium") and Timberlake ("FutureSex/LoveSounds").

    Competing for record of the year, which honors the recording artist, are Blige's "Be Without You," Blunt's "You're Beautiful," the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On." In the related field of song of the year, which honors the songwriters, the nominees are "Be Without You," "Not Ready to Make Nice," "Put Your Records On," "You're Beautiful" and "Jesus, Take the Wheel," written by a team of Nashville songsmiths and performed by Carrie Underwood.

    The last of the "big four" Grammy categories, best new artist, singled out the ubiquitous Blunt, R&B singer Chris Brown, British singer-songwriter and electronic musician Imogen Heap, neo-soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae and former American Idol Underwood.