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The 40th Annual Grammy Nominations | R&B/ Rap

'Puffy' Combs Looming Large

January 07, 1998|MARC WEINGARTEN

Watch out, Babyface. The R&B-pop uber-producer may have nine career Grammys, but hip-hop impresario Sean "Puffy" Combs--with seven nominations in the rap and R&B categories to Babyface's eight--stands a good chance of being the big winner this year.

"I'll Be Missing You," the tribute by Puff Daddy (Combs' performance name) to the late rapper the Notorious B.I.G., seems a lock for best rap performance by a duo or group. It's the most ubiquitous entry in a mediocre list of nominees--the most deserving of which is "Guantanamera" featuring Wyclef Jean, Celia Cruz and Jeni Fujita.

Combs' "No Way Out" will face stiffer competition in the album category--from an album that he co-produced: B.I.G.'s "Life After Death." But Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's "Supa Dupa Fly" was the freshest and most innovative rap album of the year. B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" will also probably win for rap solo performance, though the most powerful record was Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See."

Newcomer Erykah Badu should give Babyface a battle in the R&B categories. Her best-selling "Baduizm" was far and away the best R&B album of the year. In fact, look for a Badu sweep in the album, vocal performance and song races.

Babyface's only "award" in these categories, ironically, may be bestowed indirectly in the male vocal competition. Usher, his protege, provided the class in the field with his mammoth hit, "You Make Me Wanna. . . ."

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