North Carolina again has several Grammy nominees for the 2022 awards

By Jamel Smith

November 29, 2021

The Grammy Awards are gearing up for its 64th annual celebration (January 31, 2022) after a plentiful year of memorable releases. It’s been another year for music lovers to grab hold of their favorite albums and the Recording Academy to vote their best albums into the new class of Grammy nominees. 

To preface, the Recording Academy announced some exciting changes to the voting process. Recording Academy CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., revealed that for the first time in 30 years, the nominees were decided solely by the voting membership, and not the elusive “nominations review committee.” In result, 22,000 songs and albums were submitted for Grammy consideration. Out of those thousands of submissions, North Carolina was represented multiple times in the final nominations list. 

This year’s nominees range from R&B to dance/electronic to folk to hip-hop to country to jazz to classical, capturing the full essence of the talent in the Old North State. 



9th Wonder, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and Kamasi Washington (Dinner Party)

Best Progressive R&B Album: Dinner Party: Dessert 

In an industry full of collaboration projects, Dinner Party is arguably one of the coolest of the past decade. Dinner Party is the supergroup consisting of Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, and North Carolina’s own, 9th Wonder. With 14 Grammy nominations between the group members, Dinner Party wields the mastery of each musician and producer, blending into soulful offerings for fans and voters alike to fawn over. Their remix EP, Dinner Party: Dessert (released in October 2020) serves as the alternate version of the standard LP Dinner Party released in July. The Grammy-nominated remix EP features Snoop Dogg, Cordae, Buddy, Reuben Vincent, Herbie Hancock, Rapsody, Bilal, and Tarriona “Tank” Ball. 

Sylvan Esso 

Best Dance/Electronic Music Album: Free Love  

The Durham-based electro-pop duo consisting of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn has been releasing music since 2014. The real-life couple’s 2017 sophomore album, What Now, earned the duo their first Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. They didn’t win the award in 2018, but they are back for another try in the same category with their latest album, Free Love, which spawned three singles and garnered critical praise. 

Rhiannon Giddens

Best Folk Album: They’re Calling Me Home (with Francesco Turrisi)
Best American Roots Song: “Avalon” featuring Francesco Turrisi

Rhiannon Giddens is not new to the Grammy winner’s circle. She, along with her old-time string band, Carolina Chocolate Drops won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for their 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig. In addition to releasing music as a frontwoman, she released two albums as a solo artist: Tomorrow Is My Turn and Freedom Highway. After a decade of work and multiple Grammy nominations, she is back for her 2020 release They’re Calling Me Home, the sophomore collaborative album with Italian multi-instrumentalist,  Francesco Turrisi. 

J. Cole

Best Rap Album: The Off-Season
Best Rap Song: “My Life” feat. Morray and 21 Savage
Best Rap Performance: “My Life” feat. Morray and 21 Savage
Best Melodic Rap Performance: “Pride is the Devil” feat. Lil Baby

After a monster year that started with four songs on the Billboard Hot 100– including the Grammy-nominated songs “My Life” and “Pride is the Devil”– and a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, J. Cole ends the year triumphantly with four Grammy nominations for his critically lauded sixth LP, The Off-Season. With a nomination in every rap category this year, Fayetteville’s own looks to add more gold trophies come January. 

Luke Combs 

Best Country Solo Performance: “Forever After All”  

Born in Huntersville, North Carolina and growing up in Asheville, Luke Combs began performing at the age of 8 years old. After dropping out of college at Appalachian State University to pursue a career in music, he moved to Nashville, releasing his debut EP The Way She Rides in 2014. Since then, he has released two albums: This One’s For You and What You See Is What You Get. The country singer made his debut at the Grammy’s in 2019 as a Best New Artist nominee. This year, he’s making another appearance for his song, “Forever After All.” The Platinum-selling hit single featured on the deluxe edition of his sophomore album, What You See Is What You Get, is a frontrunner in this year’s Best Country Solo Performance category.

Nnenna Freelon

Best Jazz Vocal Album: Time Traveler 

In one of the most heartwarming Grammy stories of the year, Durham’s own Nnenna Freelon is nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album, alongside her son, Pierce Freelon, who is nominated for Best Children’s Music Album. Considered the “first family of Durham’s artistic community,” The Freelons have amassed a lifetime of creative achievements. Nnenna Freelon has garnered six Grammy nominations through her career as a jazz singer. After the passing of her husband in 2019, she and her son turned to music as a way to heal. After a decade-long hiatus, she released her eleventh album, Time Traveler, in 2021. The album she describes as a “sonic love letter,” focuses on loss and grief as she covers her late husband’s “old favorite songs.” In a story we all can relate to, eyes will surely be glued on this category come January. 

Pierce Freelon

Best Children’s Music Album: Black to the Future 

Following in his mother’s footsteps is Pierce Freelon. After years fronting the hip-hop jazz group The Beast, he’s successfully crossed over to children’s music, releasing two outstanding children’s albums: 2020’s D.a.D and this year’s Grammy nominated Black to the Future. In a beautiful showing of legacy, his children and his mother are featured on the album, making it a three-generation family affair. One can only imagine how proud the Freelon family is of their own, as both look to bring home their first Grammy wins next year. 

Caroline Shaw 

Best Contemporary Classical Composition: Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea

The Greenville-bred composer, violinist and singer is no stranger to exceptional work or accolades. Since 2015, Caroline Shaw has been a key collaborator of Kanye West, working on The Life of Pablo, ye, Nasir, and Take Me to the Light. As a solo composer, instrumentalist, and singer, she has worked on countless projects, achieving the highest honors known for an artist. In 2012, Shaw became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her composition Partita for 8 Voices. She was 30 years old at the time. Two years later, she was nominated for her first Grammy for the same composition. Although she didn’t win that year, Shaw is back with her second Grammy Award; this time, for her composition Narrow Sea




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