Hip-Hop Gets No Respect
If you missed part one of this little two part series on hip-hop music make sure to check out, the Evolution of Hip-Hop. Part two is going to look at how and why hip-hop does not get the credit and recognition that it deserves from award shows, mainly the Grammy's. Let's jump in and get hip-hop recognized!
Like I showed in the Evolution of Hip-Hop, the genre has been around since the 1970's with DJs getting it started up in New York. The first Grammy was awarded in 1959, so you would think that the Grammy's would introduce hip-hop to the awards in the mid to late 70's right? It wasn't until 1988 that the Grammy's would recognize the genre and even then they only introduced the "Best Rap Performance" category to the ceremony. Gradually they introduced more categories, '90 saw "Best Rap Solo Performance" and it wasn't until '95 that they introduced the "Best Rap Album" category. That's a damn near 20 year difference that it took for hip-hop to get national award recognition, that means you missed artists like Tupac, Biggie, NWA, Public Enemy, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, among many others. It is absolutely ludacris(see what I did there....LUDA) it took that long and some of the early pioneers of hip-hop never got the opportunity to receive the recognition they deserve. Hip-hop now has four award categories which is great but good luck receiving an award outside of those categories if you are a hip-hop artist. Let's take a quick look at the history of "Album of the Year" and "Best New Artist of the Year" specifically when there was a hip-hop artist up for the award.
Album of the Year Winners:
Hip-hop has been around since the 1970's and has been one of the most popular music genres so you would think it would have a decent amount of Grammy's in this category. Go ahead and take a guess how many times it has won? Go ahead I'll wait a little bit.....IT HAS ONLY WON THE AWARD TWICE!!!!!!! In '99 Lauryn Hill and in '04 Outkast won, that's it and you could argue both of those albums weren't necessarily hip-hop they could be pop. Let's look at who hip-hop artists have lost to:
-97 The Fugees lost to Celine Dion, '01 Eminem lost to Steely Dan, '02 Outkast lost to the O' Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack,'03 Eminem and Nelly lost to Norah Jones, '05 Kanye lost to Ray Charles, '06 Kanye lost to U2, '08 Kanye lost to Herbie Hancock, '09 Lil' Wayne lost to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, '11 Eminem lost to Arcade Fire, '13 Kendrick lost to Daft Punk, '16 Kendrick lost to Taylor Swift, '17 Drake lost to Adele, and finally in 2018 Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, AND Kendrick lost to Bruno Mars...
The definition of "Album of the Year" from the Grammy's reads as follows, "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception." Sure some of those are legitimate wins for other music genres but now that we are five years from 2013 how many people are still listening to Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" vs Kendrick's "Good Kid M.A.A.D. City" I mean let's get real here. Kendrick bursts on the scene with an incredible album and he gets snubbed for Daft Punk? That's a joke. Just this past awards show, 3 hip-hop artists (3!!!!!) were nominated with Kendrick being the favorite and they all lost to Bruno Mars. Don't get me wrong I like Bruno Mars but there is no way that album was better then the other three nominations. Kendrick and Jay-Z's albums made extremely impactful social and political statements that will be remembered for years to come as 24K Magic falls to the back burner after Bruno releases his newest pop money making album. The Grammy's will always pick the safe and popular choice instead of taking a stand and picking an album or artist that actually has meaning and makes a difference. In all honesty it really is a popularity contest but more on that later. This past awards show was the first time in Grammy's history there was no white male nominated for "Album of the Year" and they still awarded it to the most "white" male there.
Best New Artist Winners:
"Best New Artist" is defined as "For a new artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist." Hip-hop has won this award only two times as well, Lauryn Hill in '99 and Chance the Rapper in 2017. Let's take another a look at who hip-hop artists have lost to:
-'98 Puff Daddy and Erykah Badu lost to Paula Cole, '01 Sisqo to Shelby Lynne, '04 50 Cent to Evanescence, '05 Kanye to Maroon 5, '07 Chris Brown to Carrie Underwood, '11 Drake to Esperanza Spalding, '12 J. Cole and Nicki Minaj to Bon Iver, '14 Kendrick to Macklemore, and 2018 Lil' Uzi Vert to Alessia Cara.
Again some of the choices were right and I have no argument against them but some of the recent awards are downright disgraceful. Drake losing to Esperanza Spalding, I have no idea who that even is and Drake is one of the biggest celebrities in the world right now; Kendrick losing is another disgrace, and I don't care for Lil' Uzi all that much but Alessia Cara is not even a new artist she released her first hit song "Here" in 2015 which was named as one of the best songs of the year by Billboard. Again hip-hop gets zero respect from the Grammy's.
The funny thing with the Grammy's and hip-hop is this, the Grammy's loves having hip-hop artists perform at their show. Kendrick has performed the last few years and has completely torn the stage apart and is one of the most talked about performers every year. The Grammy's likes to use these artists to help draw people in and watch their show but it refuses to acknowledge the work they do in the major award categories. According to Billboard, hip-hop was the most popular music genre of 2017 so why is it not receiving the awards and recognition it deserves? There are a few factors playing in to it I believe:
1. The Grammy's don't like to pick the political or socially charged topics. In all reality they are scared to vote for albums or artists who are making a difference, they don't want to face the backlash. In 2015, Kendrick released "To Pimp a Butterfly" one of the most socially charged albums to date. It was nominated for "Album of the Year" but of course lost to Taylor Swift's "1989" a pop album with no social or political meaning. The hit song "Alright" from Kendrick became the mantra for the Black Lives Matter movement which might have immediately hurt the albums chances to win. I would hope in the year 2015 that would not be the case but there has been no evidence to prove this theory wrong.
2. This relates to the factor above but the Grammy's could have a race problem, like I said above this was the first time that no white male was nominated for "Album of the Year." In 2014 Macklemore (who I don't really consider a hip-hop artist he is more pop in my book) won "Best Rap Album" over Drake, Jay-Z, Kendrick, and Kanye. That might be the biggest WTF moment in Grammy's history when we look back at it. When Neil Portnow (who is the current president of The Recording Academy) was asked why Alessia Cara was the only woman to win a televised Grammy this year he responded with "It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.” I would hate to see what he thinks of hip-hop music.
3. The Grammy's are a popularity contest, plain and simple. There is no way Bruno Mars should have beat Kendrick this past year, he probably should not have even beaten Jay-Z but more people like Bruno Mars and he gets the radio play. Older established artists even get the nod over younger artists who are trying to break through and this shows the Grammy's favoritism. It's like being back in high school, if you were not in that inner circle you didn't stand much of a chance breaking in.
It is getting to the point where artists are choosing to skip the Grammy's all together, Drake and Kanye did it this year and I am sure more will follow which is really a shame. These are some of the biggest names in music and we are not getting to see them either perform or win awards on music's biggest night. How much longer will Kendrick continue to perform if he is just going to lose to Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift every year? Unlike other award shows or sports hall of fame voting, the Grammy's does not release their voting structure or results. Maybe that is a solution to this problem, release the ballots so we can all see the results and tear into the people who cast them blindly. I know I am a hip-hop fan but it's not difficult to see that Kendrick and artists like him are making music that actually matter and they should be rewarded for that.