Are The Grammys Finally Listening to Hip Hop?

What should we expect from the Grammys?

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards were last night. In the Hip Hip categories, Kendrick Lamar cleaned house with little surprise—largely because he deserves it. This was the year the internet believed the The Recording Academy was finally keeping pace with popular opinion, starting to pay the proper homage to Hip Hop culture. Besides the clear major artists—speaking specifically in Hip Hop categories—Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy as well Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom were nominated for Best Rap Album, a tip that the Academy is expanding their horizons into more standalone artists. This is positive.

But is it enough? Should we demand more of The Recording Academy still?

I would have to ask myself, what are the Academy’s goals? They are ‘awarded to the best recordings, compositions, and artists got the eligible year’, but what definition of best in their eyes? Does best in this context mean the most innovative or does it mean the most popular? If most innovative and singularly substantial is their goal, we should demand more. If most popular is their goal, I would have less questions. These points are mutually exclusive but coexist.

Let’s entertain the idea that the Grammy Awards celebrate true artistic achievement. While many good songs and albums were justly nominated, the majority nominated were pandering to songs with the greatest number of spins. Why else would 4:44 be nominated for any award? While, sure, it’s easily the most listenable album Jay Z has released in his solo career for past decade plus, why him and not GoldLink’s At What Cost, especially since you already surprised us with nominating Crew for an award? Nef the Pharoah has been mixing hyphy and bouncy New Orleans influences to create a unique post-Mac Dre, Lil Wayne flow that nobody is touching creatively. How was Metro Boomin forgotten for Producer of the Year after doing major work on Migos’ Culture, including the chart-topping ‘Bad and Boujee’?

We could continue down this path if we really wanted to. We could ask why the ever-perfection and influence of Gucci Mane’s craft has yet to be significantly rewarded; why Young Thug’s successful risk taking hasn’t; we can discuss Shabazz Palaces and Skepta’s or Lil B artistic merits all night if so desired. That wouldn’t advance the argument. It’s speculative based on us assuming that the Grammy Awards aren’t just a popularity contest.

All this is to pose, what power should we give the Grammy Awards as listeners and fans of Hip Hop? If it’s simply a popularity contest, base it solely on numbers and have performances and keep it moving. If the Grammys are interested in being a driving force in culture, I would hope we would demand a broader school of thought on the genre.

This is me being a contrarian, of course. The Recording Academy has the power to push boundaries, to promote careers to success, to explore what sound and music can represent. I’m not speculating on what their motives are, I’m only reading into the gestures they present. As fans and representatives of the culture, we should hold these institutions to high standards if other industries and cultures are to judge us based on their standards.

Some progress is progress nonetheless. Time will be the ultimate test to see what leads to what. But Recording Academy, one last thing. Can we get rid of the stupid October-October eligibility year rule? That’s would be great.


Credit: Marcus Scott Williams

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