This year’s Grammys — back in January — was met with stellar contenders in every category. This was a notable Grammy ceremony where no white male was nominated for album of the year, for the first time in 20 years! However, even though there was more diversity in this year’s nominees, the Grammys apparent understanding of diversity didn’t seem to reflect in the results of the award show. Here’s why hip hop fans were and still are dissatisfied with the way it all went down three months ago.
Hip-hop artists like icon Jay Z and actor-rapper Childish Gambino were nominated for multiple awards that night but, unfortunately, went home empty-handed even though their albums 4:44 and Awaken, My Love! were stellar.
One of the most notable snubs involved Kendrick Lamar losing the the album of the year award for the third time in his career, and Jay Z going home with zero wins for the night. The first time Lamar was believed to be snubbed was back in 2014 when he lost the title of Best New Artist to Macklemore, a decision that even Macklemore himself didn’t agree with, even going as far as to send Lamar an apology text about the committee’s decision.
Then 2016 rolled around and Kendrick was again snubbed, this time for Album of the Year with his masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly against Taylor Swift’s 1989. Though Swift’s album 1989 was great and had groundbreaking hits for years, it’s message just wasn’t on the same field as Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. That brings us to the 2018 Grammys. Lamar was once again a nominee for album of the year for his ridiculously successful album DAMN. but for the third time in a row, he lost—this time to Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.
Now don’t get me wrong, Mars’ album was completely amazing and he earned that award. But, having the most traffic doesn’t equate to having the deepest meaning. We can all agree that Lamar’s album DAMN. dived straight into social and political issues in America. It just seems that cultural impact and the messages behind Lamar’s album weren’t taken into account when the committee made its decision.
Every year, the albums that win pick of the year end up being the safest choices that have no core social or political context, but are rather palatable and non-offensive to all audiences. Perhaps the winner for Album of The Year is selected for more surface level reasons, such as sales and downloads. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it does set up the idea that to even be considered as a nominee, the component that comes first must be popularity and money above the message.
If that’s the case, then maybe the Grammys aren’t the best resource when it comes to trying to understand how people feel about the music they consume. Hip-hop definitely doesn’t need the Grammys or any award show to be validated as one of the most influential art forms and vehicles of social change. Though artists in the field deserve more recognition at the end of the day their music, their craft does the talking for them. Fans have showed time and time again that they fully support the powerful messages behind them.
I think Jay Z summed it up in his 2018 Pre-Grammy gala speech when he said, “Bob Marley is going to be Bob Marley, whether he’s nominated for a Grammy or not. Tupac is going to be Tupac, Biggie is going to be Biggie.”
Your favorite artists are your favorite for a reason. The presence or absence of a little award isn’t going to change that. The fact that they have such large followings and successful careers proves that statement, even three months later. Let’s continue the conversation throughout this year until the 2019 Grammys to consider what the award really means—and why hip hop maybe doesn’t need it.