The voters did a better job than usual picking worthy winners in the rap and R&B; fields this year, but par for the Grammy course, name recognition often proved as important as creativity.
“Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” was a deserving winner for Babyface as R&B; song of the year, but Tony Rich’s R&B; album award should have gone to Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s “Peace Beyond Passion,” a landmark work that was much more groundbreaking than Rich’s Babyface rehash. Luther Vandross’ male R&B; vocal award should have gone to D’Angelo. If they wanted a veteran there was always Al Green.
The rap awards could easily have been R&B; awards: The winners were those who sampled R&B-based; hits. The Fugees won--deservedly--for R&B; group performance with “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and LL Cool J won rap solo performance for “Hey Lover,” his duet with Grammy darlings Boyz II Men. Great song, but if pushing the envelope was the voters’ concern, Busta Rhymes’ rip-roaring “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check” would have been the clear favorite. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” was a predictable choice for rap performance by a duo or group, but 2Pac’s “California Love” was the most deserving song in the category.
Although a strong argument could have been made for A Tribe Called Quest or 2Pac in the rap album race, you can’t complain about the Fugees’ award for “The Score.” The group proved that rap is a music without limitations.