Award show season is here! The Grammys took place a few weeks ago and now we are looking forward to the Academy Awards and the Oscars.
Conversations have come and gone throughout the years about the credibility of this music award, especially after many different controversies have occurred.
One of the most notable Grammy controversies took place in 2013, when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won the award for Best Rap Album. While The Heist gave us hits such as “Can’t Hold Us,” “Thrift Shop,” and “Wing$,” many members of the hip-hop community felt like it should not have won over Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d. city. The duo took home three more Grammys that year, snagging the awards for “Best New Artist,” “Best Rap Performance,” and “Best Rap Song.”
Macklemore himself felt like Kendrick Lamar should have won, and he posted a screenshot of a text message to his Instagram page. This text was seemingly sent to Kendrick Lamar, and Macklemore essentially apologized for winning the award for Best Rap Album.
Returning to the question of if a Grammy matters for hip-hop, we have to consider who votes for the winners. The Recording Academy is responsible for the results of the awards, and they posted the submission/voting process to their website:
Members of the Recording Academy submit entries to the Grammy award process.
More than 350 experts get together for reviewing sessions, where they make sure each submission is placed into the correct category.
To decide the five nominees in each category, members vote on up to 10 categories throughout different genres. They also vote on the general categories like Record/Album/Song of The Year and Best New Artist. These voters are encouraged to vote in categories best suited to their individual expertise.
Once again, members vote on the categories to decide the winner of each award.
Deloitte & Touche LLP, an independent accounting firm, is brought on to tally up all the votes. The winners of each award are announced live at the following Grammy award ceremony.
(The full process can be found at https://www.recordingacademy.com/awards/voting-process)
This conversation has been taken more into consideration due to the involvement of multiple artists, including Drake. Drake has made his distaste for the Grammys known for years. He first expressed frustration that his song “Hotline Bling” won the Grammy for Best Rap Song and Rap/Sung Performance, despite it not being a rap song.
The next time, Drake took his criticism straight to the award ceremony. In 2019, he had something to say when he accepted the Best Rap Song award for hit song “God’s Plan.” He started off by saying that music is an “opinion-based sport,” where trophies don’t determine who is the best like they do in basketball or baseball. Before allegedly being cut off, Drake finished by saying that as long as you have people “spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows,” then trophies are irrelevant.
Listeners at home figured this speech had been interrupted by a commercial break, but representatives from the Grammys refuted this by saying that they thought he was finished speaking.
This may be connected to a larger issue of the Grammys not properly recognizing Black artists for the work they have put in. This can be traced back to when the music award show finally created awards for hip-hop, despite the genre being alive and well many years before.
Back when Will Smith was known as the Fresh Prince, he and DJ Jazzy Jeff won the first ever award for Best Rap Performance at the 1989 Grammys. While some may consider this a huge honor and a step forward for hip-hop, the music duo learned that the award would not be televised, so they refused to show up and accept the award.
To connect back to the Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar situation, Macklemore also stated that he felt like him winning the award had to do with his skin color.
While not necessarily a hip-hop artist, Frank Ocean still holds some weight in the community. He also chooses not to submit his music for Grammy consideration. When speaking with The New York Times in 2016, Ocean claimed that the awards don’t correctly represent people like him.
In addition to Drake and Frank Ocean not sending music to the Grammys, The Weeknd is another notable artist who refuses to acknowledge the music award.
Are the Grammys a credible accolade when it seems apparent that they show bias in choosing award winners? Is it even a fair contest, since top artists do not submit their music for consideration? Things like this have been visible ever since they started acknowledging hip-hop.
To stand in solidarity with these artists, it may be time for fans of hip-hop music, and music fans in general, to boycott the Grammys until change is made.