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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Rocky Relationship between Rap and the Recording Academy

Artist Kendrick Lamar performing at the 60th Annual Grammys. The Ceremony was held in New York City on January 28, 2018. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS).

Rap and The Grammy Recording Academy share a famously awkward history, given the frequent snubbing of Rap artists from winning in major categories. In addition, The Academy only began recognizing Rap and allowing the category in their ceremony 31 years ago. 

The relationship between The Academy and Rap experienced a rocky beginning, with the famous boycott by Rap’s A-List artists in 1989. As a result of learning that the presentation of the award for Best Rap Performance would not be televised, the then nominated Will Smith and musical partner DJ Jazzy Jeff led the boycott. Artists such as Salt-N-Peppa, LL Cool J, and Russel Simmons also chose to boycott the ceremony. The next year, the Rap performances and awards were televised.

It is rare for any Rap artist’s projects to win the highest honors of the award show; Album of the Year, Record of the Year, or Song of the Year.  Notably, the last time a Rap album won Album of the Year was Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2004. 

However, the Rap category has had many accomplishments. In 2019, Cardi B won Best Rap Album with Invasion of Privacy, the first solo female artist to win since Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill swept the award show with eight wins 21 years ago, including Album of the Year (even though the Academy didn’t consider her as Rap, but as R&B).

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The rap community continues to be under appreciated. In 2017, artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, SZA or Khalid, who rose in popularity and among the charts lost to Pop singer Alessia Cara for Album of the Year. Cara won due to her project Know-it-All released in 2015. Her win garnered mixed reactions. Twitter was especially vocal with their reactions with users such as @itsmarkjohns expressing their dissapointment.

Another example of snubbing which caused much controversy occurred in the Awards Ceremony of 2014. Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and Kanye West’s Yeezus all lost to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s The Heist in the category of Best Rap Album. Even Macklemore himself thought that Lamar should have won that honor. Below is a screenshot that Macklemore took of his text to Lamar after the Ceremony. 

He captioned the screenshot posted  on Instagram with a paragraph saying, “My text to Kendrick after the show. He deserved best Rap album… I’m honored and completely blown away to win anything much less 4 Grammys. But in that category, he should have won IMO. And that’s taking nothing away from The Heist. Just giving GKMC it’s proper respect.. With that being said, thank you to the fans. You’re the reason we were on that stage tonight. And to play Same Love on that platform was a career highlight. The greatest honor of all. That’s what this is about. Progress and art. Thank you. #grammys

The 60th Grammy ceremony of 2018 “failed to reflect [Hip Hop/Rap’s] status as the most popular genre in the US,” according to The Guardian. The article continued saying, “Jay-Z received the most nominations of any artist, with eight nods for 4:44, but won no awards. Lamar won in the Rap categories for album, song, performance and collaboration, but lost in the top-billing general slots for album, video and record.” Many Hip-Hop/Rap fans were outraged because of this. 

Now let’s look at Rap by the numbers. Rap has the biggest market share of all genres. As shown in the image below, Rap beat Pop music by 1.6% for total music consumption in the United States in 2018. Additionally, according to the 2017 Nielsen Music Year-End Report, “For the first time ever, R&B/Hip-Hop became the most dominant genre, with seven of the top 10 most-consumed albums coming from that genre. The popularity of R&B/Hip-Hop was powered by a 72% increase in on-demand audio streaming.”

However, The Academy is making attempts to diversify its voting members. According to the Rolling Stone, “Under new CEO Deborah Dugan, the Recording Academy says it wants to double its female voting members by 2025.” (At the time of this writing, Dugan was placed on administrative leave amid a claim of misconduct). This will come as a positive change since, in 2018, only 20% of voters identified as female. The Academy is also 65% male and 65% white. Could the diversification of the Recording Academy lead to a deeper appreciation of Rap music or music categories that are not white male dominated? 

What will happen this year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards?  This prestigious ceremony is meant to honor musical artists, entertain the fans, and award the nominees, who happen to be the biggest stars of the Music Industry. According to the Nielson rating, Over 19.8 million viewers tuned in on the 2019 broadcast. The 62nd Grammy show will be televised on Sunday, January 26th at 8PM on CBS. We will soon know the outcome for the 2020 class of winners. 

[At the time of this writing, CEO Deborah Dugan was placed on administrative leave amid a claim of misconduct.]

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