Hip-hop’s presence in what was once called the Gramophone Award now known as the exalted Grammy Award is one founded in an adventure. Presented by the Recording Academy in 1958, the Grammy Award honors musicians whose craft is primarily done in the English language and have achieved mass popular appeal. Such analysis appears to be strictly lenient towards sales and chart performance, despite the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences set principle of behavior to waive them.
In 1989 at the 31st Annual Grammy Awards the hip-hop genre gained its very first Grammy recognition, bringing into existence a brand new category for the prestigious Award ceremony for Best Rap Performance. The award was based on “quality rap performances” released in the year of 1988. The nominees chosen for the newbie category award included DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, J. J. Fad for “Supersonic”, Kool Moe Dee for “Wild Wild West”, LL Cool J for “Going Back to Cali”, and Salt-n-Pepa for “Push It”. The award was presented during a pre-telecast ceremony to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince by Kool Moe Dee who made a distinct statement: “On the behalf of all MCs, my co-workers and fellow nominees — Jazzy Jeff, J.J. Fad, Salt-N-Pepa and the boy who’s bad — we personify power and a drug-free mind, and we express ourselves through rhythm and rhyme. So I think it’s time that the whole world knows rap is here to stay.”
While the hip-hop community was merry in delight over the profound category, many found severe issues with the award, including its own recipients. Both Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff were not pleased with the fact that the award ceremony was not televised and even declared a protest to boycott the show, while others in the hip-hop community did not find some of the nominees worthy of the nomination. At this time, the golden era, quality rap was found to be that with lyrical, clean-cut clout, rather than catchy phrases and choruses.
In 1991 at the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards the award for Best Rap Performance was split into two categories: Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. For the short time the Best Rap Performance category was put in place, representatives from the Academy found that they were receiving an overwhelming amount of qualified entries and were fortunately aware of the many different breeds of rap artists, thus splitting the pioneering rap category by group type giving a fair chance to all qualified candidates. The first Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance was presented to MC Hammer for his timeless hit “U Can’t Touch This,” which garnered mass controversy in the hip-hop community due it the song’s blatant commercial approach. The Quincy Jones-produced hit single “Back on the Block” featuring Big Daddy Kane, Ice-T, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel & Quincy Jones III won the first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group that year, earning the pioneering lyricists their first Grammy award. Both of these honors were presented until 2011. The awards were officially discontinued in 2012.
In 2003 for the 46th Annual Grammy Awards the category for Best Rap Solo Performance was split, based on gender: Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Female Rap Solo Performance with Eminem “Lost Yourself” and Missy Elliot “Work It” as the profound award’s first recipients. The category only lasted for one additional year, reverting back to Best Rap Solo Performance in 2005.
Coming into the nineties, regardless of the Academy conducting the Best Rap Solo Performance category split due to a continuous plentiful amount of entries, the act only signaled for even double or triple the number of entries for a Best Rap-something. After five solid years, the Academy decided to create yet, another category to honor all levels of “quality rap,” the honor for Best Rap Album for the 38th Annual Grammy Awards. This is only sensible due to the abundant amount of classic albums that were created in the 90s-post the trial and error golden era 80s. Naughty by Nature serve as primordial recipients of the Grammy award for Best Rap Album for their fourth album, Poverty’s Paradise which won over 2Pac Me Against the World, Ol’ Dirty Bastard Return to the 36 Chambers, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony E. 1999 Eternal, and Skee-Lo I Wish. The category for Best Rap Album is still a Grammy honor until this day with Jay-Z 4:44, Kendrick Lamar Damn, Migos Culture, Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom, and Tyler, the Creator Flower Boy, severing as nominees for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards taking place tonight (Jan. 28).
Hip-hop’s universal ability to merge with other genres and collaborate with artists from divergent genres was finally honored by the Academy in 2002 under a new category Best Rap/Sung Performance (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration). The inaugural award was presented to Eve and Gwen Stefani for “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” at the 52nd Grammy Awards with notable collabs such as Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z “Crazy In Love,” Rihanna feat. Jay-Z “Umbrella,” Estelle feat. Kanye West “American Boy,” Jay-Z feat. Kanye West and Rihanna “Run This Town” following as honorable recipients of the award.
There are songs that receive the wide acclaim that are strictly hip-hop tracks which do not involve the input of any type of singer that are also deserving of recognition. For this reason, the Academy introduced the Best Rap Song category in 2004 for the 54th Grammy Awards. Eminem took home the profound award for “Lose Yourself”, earning a total of two honors that evening. For the 60th Grammy Awards, risen star Cardi B and her smash hit record-breaking single “Bodak Yellow” is up as a nominee for the Best Rap Song award, alongside Kendrick Lamar “HUMBLE.,” Rapsody “Sassy,” Jay-Z “The Story of O.J.,” and Danger Mouse feat. Run the Jewels and Big Boi “Chase Me.”
Hip-hop is a genre that hones the ability and chance to break barriers by conducting the daring and challenging which trigger the need for intricate categories in regards to honors. The Academy’s intake of “overwhelming” entries is only proof of the broad variety of vibration bound formats the art form may come in. Albums and songs that are heralded as cult classics may have seen a Grammy nomination, though, not common, but most have not been presented with the honorable award. This matter, which is evident ever since hip-hop’s inception in the award show, has been tackled ever since the beginning.
When it comes to the culture of hip-hop most own a preference to adhere to lyrical masterpieces as classics, rather than commercially driven tunes riding in the name of hip-hop. There are others who also happen to understand the principles of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ and do not see anything problematic about such honors. Regardless, the grand scale of creativity that is found in hip-hop music is being recognized and in this modern day and age, hip-hop has reached a level to where it is the dominant music genre of the world. Perhaps, things are just getting started.