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North Carolina will be heavily represented at this year’s Grammy Awards

 By Cameron Lee 

January 25, 2020 (Updated)

In the past year, North Carolina has received a considerable amount of attention for its music. Probably not a statement you’re used to hearing, but it’s true. 2019 was a banner year for the state as J. Cole launched his first Dreamville Festival in Raleigh and Charlotte’s own DaBaby firmly cemented himself as one of the rap industry’s biggest stars. 

Snow Hill, North Carolina’s Rapsody was nominated for Best Rap Album for her sophomore studio album, Laila’s Wisdom, in 2018 (alongside some heavyweights like Jay-Z, Migos, and Kendrick Lamar, who took home the prize), while Durham’s bubbly indie-pop duo Sylvan Esso got the nod for Best Dance/Electronic Album in the same year.

As the wins have been few and far between for the highly lauded prize that’s recently been under media scrutiny for its questionable selection processes, last year, it was a UNC-Chapel Hill history professor William Ferris that won for Best Historical Album for his project Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris

J. Cole at Dreamville Festival 2019 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh. Photo: Pooja Pasupula / CLTure

However, North Carolina artists have taken home the coveted award in recent years, including Charlotte’s Anthony Hamilton (Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance in 2008), Durham’s Carolina Chocolate Drops (Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010), Asheville’s Steep Canyon Rangers (Best Bluegrass Album in 2012), and High Point’s Fantasia (Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2010). 

As much as the Grammy chatter is often around hip-hop, which dominates modern music, fashion and entertainment, there is a wide range of North Carolina representation at this year’s awards. 

Roberta Flack 

Born in Black Mountain, the five-time Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter will be one of seven to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award alongside Chicago, Isaac Hayes, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Public Enemy and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Best-known for her #1 single “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (which was later covered by the Fugees and won the Grammy in 1997), Flack is the only solo artist to win Record of the Year for two consecutive years in 1973 and 1974. 

YBN Cordae 

Raleigh-born rapper YBN Cordae burst onto the scene with his punchline-heavy 2018 single, “Have Mercy,” blending a verbose lyrical barrage not heard often by young artists (he’s currently 22 years old). His performance of “RNP” with Anderson .Paak on The Tonight Show in July of 2019 propelled his career to new heights, and his debut album Lost Boy earned a Best Rap Album nomination this year along with a Best Rap Song nod for “Bad Idea.” 

Caroline Shaw 

Caroline Shaw is probably the most talented musician from North Carolina you have never heard of. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for her a cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices, the Greenville-born violinist also earned a Master’s Degree in music from Yale University. Need more? She’s also collaborated with Kanye West on an official “Say You Will” remix along with the song “Wolves” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2” from the album The Life of Pablo, in addition to working with the National and tUnE-yArDs. Already a winner in 2013 for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble, Shaw is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Shaw: Orange

J. Cole

As surprising as it may be, the Dreamville head honcho has yet to win a Grammy. Nominated for five this year for Best Rap Performance (“Middle Child,” “The London” featuring Young Thug, and “Down Bad”), Best Rap Song (“A Lot” featuring 21 Savage ), and Best Rap Album (Revenge of the Dreamers III), Cole’s odds are extremely high to bring the prize to his home state come April for Dreamville Festival. 

Lute 

Charlotte rapper, Luther Nicholson aka Lute, has been making noise in local hip-hop circles since his first mixtape West1996 in 2012. Since signing to Dreamville in 2015, the west Charlotte lyricist has amassed a loyal following, dropping his debut studio album West1996 pt. 2 in 2017. He is featured on two tracks from Revenge of the Dreamers III which has been nominated for Best Rap Album. 

DaBaby 

Who would have thought when Jonathan Kirk aka DaBaby released his first music video for “Light Show” with the Reel Goats in 2016, that just three years later he would release a song (“Suge”) that would earn two Grammy nominations and an album (Kirk) that would reach #1 on the Billboard charts? It’s been an astronomical rise and this weekend’s ceremony will add another chapter to his dynamic story. 

Rhiannon Giddens 

Founding member of the aforementioned Grammy Award-winning folk country blues band Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ career has flourished as a solo artist. Releasing two solo albums, Tomorrow Is My Turn in 2015 and Freedom Highway in 2017, to critical acclaim she collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi her latest album, There Is No Other. The album explores soundscapes influenced by the forgotten music of Africa and the Arabic world, and her song “I’m On My Way” is nominated for Best American Roots Performance. 

Luke Combs

Charlotte-born and Asheville-raised country singer-songwriter Luke Combs is often overlooked when it comes to Carolina musicians, especially in the hip-hop heavy modern music landscape. His debut studio album This One’s for You was certified double-platinum and, while he wasn’t able to take home Best New Artist in 2018, Combs has a chance to win his first Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for his song “Brand New Man” from the stellar Brooks & Dunn Reboot album. 

Iron & Wine 

Many may not know that South Carolina native Sam Beam aka Iron & Wine now resides in Chapel Hill. With early music ties to Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses (including a collaboration album with Bridwell in 2015) before his career launched with famed indie rock label Sub Pop in 2002, Beam has released nine albums with his latest, Years To Burn, being nominated for Best Americana Album. 

Che Apalache

Joe Troop, a Winston Salem native moved to Spain in 2002 at the ripe age of 19 to explore new sounds and experiences. Continuing his musical discovery working with Guogang Li, a Chinese composer, and having toured as a fiddle player with bluegrass band Town Mountain after his return to the states, Troop started Che Apalache, an Appalachian-rooted bluegrass band, dubbed as “Latin Grass.” The band has been nominated for Best Folk Album, Rearrange My Heart

Hosted by Alicia Keys, the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California and broadcast live on CBS, Sunday, January 26, 2020, at 8:00 p.m. ET and 5:00 p.m. PT.

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