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“And perception can be very powerful,” he said. “And the thing Ben and Ryan are messing with is perception and people’s desire to put things in boxes.”

Noah “40” Shebib, Drake’s producer, believes Macklemore & Lewis should earn rap nominations, adding: “I’m not against either decision.”

“The playing fields are different. (Macklemore is) playing in a world that has more numbers. Bigger impact, bigger reach, more everything. All the rappers, they can dabble in those areas, but they don’t necessarily exist in that area. If you want to talk about the logistics of it - that would be a reason in my opinion to isolate him into the pop category because that’s his weight class,” Shebib said. “Let the rappers that exist on the urban market fight that out between themselves. So from that point of view and logistics, I would put him in a pop category.”

Shebib won the best rap album Grammy with Drake for “Take Care” last year and they are competing with Macklemore & Lewis for the honor this year with “Nothing Was the Same.” Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” and A$AP Rocky’s “(Expletive) Problems,” songs co-written by Shebib, will battle “Thrift Shop” for best rap song.

Shebib said Drake, like Macklemore, has faced his critics in rap.

“Sometimes people say Drake’s not a rapper, he’s a singer, but there’s a certain group of people who take that opinion of Drake because of the music that he makes, being that he isn’t boxed into just rap songs,” he said. “Now obviously, we all know Drake is a rapper and should be in the rap category. Same thing applies to the Macklemore conversation.”

While pop radio largely aided in Macklemore & Lewis‘ breakthrough, urban radio still plays the duo’s songs.

Ebro Darden, program director of New York’s Hot 97, said he believes Macklemore & Lewis should compete for hip-hop Grammys, though he thinks sonically the group “lends itself to a more mainstream taste palate.”

“If you’re rapping over a beat, it’s hip-hop,” Darden said.

Macklemore & Lewis‘ ultimate competitor at the Grammys is Kendrick Lamar, who also has seven nominations. They will compete with Lamar in three rap categories, as well as for album of the year and best new artist.

The duo’s manager said the musicians - who will perform at the awards show airing live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles - are putting the negativity behind them.

“Ben’s been rapping onstage since he was 14 years old and before ‘Thrift Shop’ hit pop radio, he very much considered himself an underground rap artist, Quillen said of Macklemore, whose name is Ben Haggerty. “Ben also has a thick skin and he’s also extremely proud of and confident with the art he puts out. … But I think like anybody he’s a human being, he’ll look at a comment like that and it’s disconcerting. But he’s also quick to move past it.”

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Follow Mesfin Fekadu at twitter.com/MusicMesfin

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