Last night, the world was able to partake in the biggest night of music, with the airing of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Millions of pairs of eyes were focused on Los Angeles, in the Staple Center, to see if their favorite artists, writers, or songs would take home one of the coveted golden gramophones. While the authority of the Academy has faced an increasing amount of skepticism, walking across the biggest of show stages, accepting an illustrious award, live in front of the nation, remains one of the most sought after experiences in the industry; with it comes respect, validation from ones’ peers, and a chance to claim a spot in the annuls of musical history.
While the credibility of the award show is waning, the benefits that a win bestows on their participant are too great to ignore or underscore. It is the reason why Hip Hop publications and music blogs everywhere make sure to keep an eye on them, even if we don’t necessarily agree with their view. The Source Magazine is the authority of this culture, and we have an even greater responsibility to stay on top and critique the ceremony.
Since the inception the Grammys and Hip Hop have had a rocky relationship. In 1989, the “Best Rap Performance” was introduced, seemingly giving emcees and producers the gratification and acceptance they deserved. However, to their dismay, the Academy decided that viewers were probably not well versed in the genre or didn’t really care much for the urban street music; therefore, it would be best for them not to hand out the award on air, but beforehand. Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith, and a plethora of important figures in the rap game felt unappreciated, leading to their boycotting the ceremony that year. Things have not gotten better since that time.
Throughout the twenty five year relationship, there have been multiple boycotts from artists, who demand more respect be shown to their work. There is a subtle disconnect between Grammy voters and the creators of the music, that seems to have some racial and philosophical overtones. Only two rap acts have ever won the highly touted “Album of the Year”: Outkast and Lauryn Hill. While in recent years, the favorite to win “Record of the Year” has been a rap song, none have actually won the award. There is an invisible wall that emcees cannot push through or the voters are so out of touch with the culture that they are trying to comment on. Either way the results leave something to be desired.
The Academy faced a serious litmus test last night, either they would bow to the overwhelming popularity of Macklemore or they would heed the cries of majority of hip hop lovers, and hand over the “Hip Hip Album of the Year” honors to Kendrick Lamar. Both were deserving in their own right: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were able to push the boundaries of hip hop further than what was ever thought possible, reaching a far range of audiences, and selling millions of records independently—even receiving our “Man of the Year” cover; while GKMC was hailed as a genius record, and has been universally accepted by the hip hop community, thanks to the way Kendrick was able to weave his own tale of lost, tragedy, and ultimate redemption in Compton, California—the same city the awards were held in.
We expected Macklemore to receive his fair share of awards and a major figure during the ceremony. The Source handed the Seattle rapper the “Many of the Year” honors, which was physical manifestation of our support and recognition of his accomplishments. He had amazing crossover appeal, his music was much more relatable, and his message of social justice was easily palatable for outside listeners. However, we stayed away from giving him “Album of the Year”, because we simply appreciated other artists’ projects more than his. Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name won our award this year, because of his contributions to the revival and renewal of a major street records, an important subgenre in the culture.
When we spoke to Macklemore for his “Man of the Year” feature, he shared some pretty prophetic thoughts:
…we’re up against Kendrick, who made a phenomenal album. If we win a Grammy for Best Rap Album, Hip-Hop is going to be heated. In terms of [that category], I think it should go to Kendrick. He’s family. TDE is family, and I understand why Hip-Hop would feel like Kendrick got robbed [if he didn’t win]. I’m not trying to compare albums; I think you can make an argument for both. With that being said, I am a huge supporter of what Kendrick does. And because of that, I would love to win in a different category. We obviously had massive success on commercial radio, and I think that, in ways, The Heist was a bigger album, but Kendrick has a better rap album.
Not only did he win “Best Rap Album”, but Macklemore won three more awards all within the rap category. It was a good night, one that is well deserved. Although we endorse him a lot and we love what he is doing for the culture, his grabbing of the “Best Rap Album” award leaves a bad taste in our mouths. We do agree that he has had one heck of the year, but not album of the year good. Kendrick’s LP was an amazing piece of art, but it was assumed that a significant amount of voters hadn’t heard the album—or at least, hadn’t spent time with it—because it didn’t have the same reach as The Heist. Even Macklemore thought so:
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
We appreciate Macklemore’s continued honest and transparency, even as he constantly pushes his and the genre’s boundaries. Here at the Source, we acknowledge the great year that Macklemore has had, but we aren’t naïve enough to not see the forces that are at work in the background. We applaud all of the musicians that are trying to progress the art to new levels and past previous held stereotypes. This is just another case of that old GTA.