Hip-Hop’s frustration with the Grammys have been well documented throughout the years. The prestigious award show has been reluctant to grant and acknowledge the artistic merits of the culture’s prominent acts. This stubbornness-and an apparent lack of touch with the current landscape- has led some to question how much power hip-hop should attest to this institution. Still, with all the hoopla, winning a Grammy is a big deal for artists- rather they want to admit it or not. And understandably so- labeled as an Grammy award winner can do wonders for an artist’s career and legacy. I imagine it in comparison to an athlete getting selected to the All-Star game, or winning league MVP. Make enough All-Star appearances, and win enough end of the year trophies, then an athlete will sure find themselves living in eternal prosperity in the Hall of Fame at career’s end. Same is true for a musician- continued nominations and winning of Grammys could accord the same destiny. Look at Eminem, Kanye West, Outkast, and Kendrick Lamar-all are multiple Grammy award winners- and not many would argue against that they are some of the best to ever do it. For most artists, winning the award propels them for more success in the immediate years to follow. However, not all Grammy winners are able to continue their hot streak. There are a couple scenarios where artists are hoisting the gold gramophone one year, then nowhere to be found the next.
In 1996, legendary group Naughty by Nature won a Grammy for Best Rap Album-which was the first year that category was introduced- for their album “Poverty’s Paradise”. That album was the climatic buildup from an impressive string of projects produced by the group. Surprisingly, after winning the award the group went relatively quiet. Their next project “Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury”, wouldn’t be released until a whole four years later. I’m not actually sure why the Naughty by Nature temporarily faded after the monumental win. Maybe the group needed the time to really relish in their achievement. As mentioned, they had an impressive string of albums; the self-titled album “Naughty by Nature” (1991), “19 Naughty 111” (1993), then of course Poverty’s Paradise. The former two albums, both boasted Grammy nominated singles; “O.P.P” & “Hip Hop Hooray”, respectively. Neither won of course- so maybe winning on the third time around was like finally being able to climb that mountain- thus rewarding some time off to enjoy the fruits of the labor. This is all just speculation of course, but however you want to slice it- Naughty by Nature’s place in music history is well deserved.
Let’s move the clock forward to more recent times as we examine another example. Remember when everyone was mad at Macklemore album “The Heist” beating out Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” for best Rap Album at the 2014 Grammys? The public outrage was so bad that Macklemore even apologized to Kendrick for “Robbing” him- though I still wonder if that was a sincere or sarcastic statement from Macklemore. Anyway, rather you agreed with the verdict or not, Macklemore took home the hardware. Although I don’t it The Heist was better than GKMC, it was a solid project, and it propelled Macklemore into major mainstream fame. The album posted some huge singles such as “Can’t Hold Us”, “Same Love”, & “Thrift Shop” which won two Grammys for Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song. Macklemore was a house on fire that year it seemed, blowing up the charts and tearing up festival stages, mainstream America seemed eager to crown their next white knight. Macklemore appeared poised to “steal” more Grammys with future releases. But not so fast, the second project “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” failed to keep up with the momentum from The Heist’’ . Upon release, it was met with less than stellar reviews and ratings from critics, and didn’t manage to garner any Grammy buzz or nominations. The most recent album- “Gemini”– also seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
One artist I will be focusing on going forward is Chance The Rapper. He shattered the mold after his critically acclaimed-streaming only album, “Coloring Book” won three Grammy Awards in 2016. That success has rewarded him a new level of fame and expectation now. Can he deliver Grammy worthey material again on the next project, or will he fade?