In the wake of BET's huge announcement on 106 & Park tonight revealing the nominees for the 2012 Hip Hop Awards, there are many interesting subplots and mini-dramas emerging. It's hard not to notice how much impact alumni of BET's Music Matters program are making: Big Sean and Miguel each racked up several nominations, mostly for their collaborations with other artists. But two other Music Matters grads are going head to head for their HHA glory: Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, who are both vying for Lyricist of the Year.
BET launched Music Matters to highlight on-the-rise singers and rappers who are keeping music alive. The initiative expanded into a tour, and has also included Estelle, Elle Varner, Stalley and Melanie Fiona. J. Cole was spotlighted by Music Matters back in 2010, after two mixtapes, The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights, took his buzz to new decibel levels. Since then, he's released his 2011 studio debut, Cole Word: The Sideline Story, which topped the Billboard charts and established him as a bona fide star. On the mic, Cole skillfully balanced introspection, party-starting and battle-ready bars, and he received the nod for Lyricist of the Year at the HHAs as a result.
Kendrick Lamar, meanwhile, signed on with Music Matters earlier this year, when it was announced he'd be headlining this fall's 23-date Music Matters tour, which began a few days ago. The tour will help ramp up anticipation for his own major-label debut, Good Kid., m.A.A.d. City, set to drop Oct. 22. Kendrick signed a deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment after releasing his stunning indie album Section.80 last year. Kendrick's tongue-twisting, deeply personal verses led Dre, Snoop Dogg and Game to crown him the new "King of the West Coast," and made him a shoo-in nomination for Lyricist of the Year at the 2012 Hip Hop Awards.
We can't help but be proud watching these two Music Matters alumni come up and compete with true legends — Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye West — for Lyricist of the Year.
The only problem? We can't decide who we want to win! Who do you think should win Lyricist of the Year? J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar? Or one of the other nominees? Let us know in the comments below.
Tune into the 2012 Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday, October 9 at 8P/7C.
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(Photos from left: Roc Nation Records, John Ricard / BET)