Every year music seems to become greater than the year before. 2016 was a monumental year for music to say the least. Among the long list of highlights from this year, Rae Sremmurd went from being the two kids we looked to for a turn up, to being solidified stars; the Knowles sisters dropped two of the best albums I’ve ever heard (Lemonade and A Seat at the Table); and to everyone’s surprise, Frank Ocean dropped two albums…..TWO ALBUMS!
Based off of last year’s award ceremony, the Grammys have become something other than the most respected music ceremony. The prestigious award show has become a shell of itself. From major artists boycotting to the actual recipients of awards, the Grammys just aren’t the same. I grew up loving the show – I remember seeing Kanye perform Stronger with Daft Punk after being criticized for sampling them on his hit Stronger. I remember watching Jay Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne, TI and a pregnant MIA perform Swagger Like Us. I remember ODB crashing the stage and having one of the most memorable Grammy moments of all time. I remember when Outkast won album of the year. Not only are these some of Hip Hop’s greatest moments, but music’s greatest moments as well. The Grammys are supposed to represent what was the best in music for the past year, and in recent history that hasn’t been the case.
In 2015, we saw some of the greatest music released across all genres. In Hip Hop, we got to see the greatness of Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly without a doubt is a Hip Hop CLASSIC. From top to bottom it is a solid piece of work. We see Kendrick dive into the demons he faces while becoming more and more famous, and also speaking to the truths that haunt the Black community. The album was a mix between Funk, Jazz, and traditional Hip Hop. It was met with rave reviews across all forms of media. It was nominated for several Grammys, including Album of the Year. It’s competition was Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd, Traveller by Chris Stapleton, Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes, and 1989 by Taylor Swift. Simply by comparing the bodies of work, you would assume Kendrick would win. That wasn’t the case. Kendrick was beaten out by Taylor Swift. Everyone, including myself, was dumbfounded by the decision. I can be objective in this situation and even at my most objective point of view, I don’t understand what led the voters to choose 1989 over TPAB. Kendrick’s album was not only a better album, but the overlying and underlying messages of Kendrick’s album was so much more profound compared to Taylor Swift’s. Real artistry wasn’t recognized that night in that particular category.
This year many people, excluding myself, thought that this year’s Grammys would be awarded the right way. And for the most part it was. I didn’t watch the awards live, but on Twitter I saw Chance the Rapper left with 3 Grammys on his own. This is a major accomplishment because of his independence from a major label. He took home Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, and Best Rap Album for Coloring Book. Based off of Twitter reactions, everyone was proud. After Chance was awarded, people jumped straight to questioning whether Beyoncé would win for Record and Album of the Year. Beyoncé was nominated for Formation for Record of the Year and Lemonade for Album of the Year. That song was one of the biggest and most talked about songs since the time of its release. It ended up losing to Adele’s Hello, which was equally as big and talked about. This particular category was a toss up, but album of the year Beyoncé was certain to win right? She didn’t do anything but make an album for empowering ALL women (women of color especially). Speaking on her husband’s infidelity, showing more versatility than ever before, AND making videos to every song on the album. This is arguably Beyoncé’s best work. Lemonade ending up losing to Adele’s 25, a tragic mistake acknowledged by Adele herself. Adele took time out of her own acceptance speech to acknowledge that her Album of the Year was Lemonade. It is now known that the Grammy committee suspected Beyoncé of trying to run the table by having too many songs that crossed too many categories in her album. So for that they penalized her. Something is wrong.
The Grammys have been getting it wrong for some time now. Artists of color have not been receiving the appropriate credit. Only two Hip-Hop artists have ever won album of the year. There have been songs that no one knew came out that have won Song of the Year. Hip Hop and R&B have been the bulk of Pop music for quite some time now. It is consumed at larger rates than any other genre and has had the most influence in the last two decades. And yet, the awards fail to reflect these truths.
Some people argue that race has something to do with why Hip Hop hasn’t been respected at the Grammys, and I have to say I agree to some extent. Maybe in the past race was a factor, but some of the music being made now has been so monumental and so undeniable that it is hard to not reward it. There is a clear lack of respect by those in power to vote. We have to see that and recognize that their validation isn’t reflective of the culture. We have to be smart and not buy into watching an award ceremony that doesn’t respect or appreciate what we have to say. Many artists such as Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and several others have been boycotting the Grammys in response to the awards not showing respect to true artistry. Us as the people who support this culture have to follow suit. We have to give more power to the award ceremonies that do celebrate us, our culture and our talents.