The Grammys Continue to Miss the Mark on Hip-Hop
Dane McMillan | Staff Writer
Another year, another Grammy’s, another disappointment.
One of the more controversial categories of the Grammy awards, Best Rap Album, didn’t fail to disappoint with the winner this year being Macklemore for his album The Heist. His award was met with quite a bit of skepticism from a large portion of the African-American community, let alone the hip-hop community. Many attributed Macklemore’s Grammy win largely to the success of his popular record “Thrift Shop”, while others went as far to say he only won because he is white. Although neither side may be wrong, the issue with the Grammy’s and their treatment of the hip-hop genre and Black artists as a whole goes much deeper than that.
The category for Best Rap Album was established in 1995, with the first award going to Naughty By Nature for their album Poverty’s Paradise. 1995 may seem like a long time ago now, but rap music had been around for quite a while before that, which just goes to show how slow the Grammy’s are to grasp the artistry that’s truly having a cultural impact outside of popularity and record sales, but we’ll get to that later.
Since the inaugural year of the Best Rap Album category, the artist with the most wins is none other than Eminem, who happens to be a white rapper, with five Grammys. While it may be fair to argue that Eminem is one of the greatest rappers of all-time, is it really fair to say he deserves every Grammy he’s won? What’s worse is that with Macklemore’s Grammy win last week, there has only been one time that a white rapper has been nominated in the category for Best Rap Album and lost. If that isn’t cause for concern, I don’t know what is.
This year’s Grammys was particularly met with a lot of hype due to Kendrick Lamar’s “debut” album, good kid, m.A.A.d city being nominated for Best Rap Album. Upon its much anticipated release back in October 2012, the critically-acclaimed album was dubbed an “instant classic” by much of the hip-hop community, with some even going as far to say as it being one of the best albums to come out in the last several years. So it’s safe to say that many of us were hoping that Kendrick’s first Grammy trip would be a meaningful one. On Grammy night, however, Kendrick went home with nothing as we watched Macklemore go home with just about every award that Kendrick arguably deserved, including Best New Artist and ultimately, Best Rap Album.
The following day, Macklemore posted a screenshot of a text message conversation between him and Kendrick in which he described how he felt about winning the award. “You got robbed,” Macklemore says in the text. “I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you. I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during the speech and I froze.”
The Grammy’s seems to have an issue with getting these awards right, especially if the winner agrees that another artist deserved the award. Nowadays, whoever sells the most records or is on the radio more will get a Grammy. It’s that simple, but it’s not supposed to be. The amount of snubs that have been handed to hip-hop artists over its tenure as a Grammy category is astonishing. Since 1995 when the category was created, only two hip-hop albums have won Album of the Year, arguably the most prestigious award for any artist on Grammy night. Those two albums were first Lauryn Hill’s debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below. While it’s great that these artists won this award, they were awarded for albums that were barely hip-hop albums in essence. The biggest records off of Outkast’s album were “Hey Ya” and “Roses”, songs that have much more R&B influence than hip-hop, and the same can be said about Lauryn Hill’s album. This is not to take anything away from those two classic albums, but it goes to show that the Grammy’s just simply does not award, or even respect hip-hop.