January 29, 2018


The GRAMMYs Continue to Shut Out Black Artists In Major Categories, But Should We Be Surprised?

Getty Images
Getty Images

When the 2018 GRAMMY nominations were announced last November, they stood out as being inclusive amid a touchy political climate where diversity is the hot topic. Notably, there were a large number of Black artists being recognized for their work that extended beyond the predictable rap and R&B categories.

But once the awards ceremony carried on, it was evident that a push for diversity was more of a business tactic than a genuine celebration of talent. Jay-Z lead the pack this year with a total of of eight nominations for his stellar 4:44 album, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Kendrick Lamar followed closely behind, scoring seven nods for one of the best albums of the year—DAMN. Childish Gambino got four nominations for the brilliant Awaken, My Love! Luis Fonsi earned three nominations for his international smash "Despacito" featuring Daddy Yankee. SZA became most-nominated female with five nods for her acclaimed CTRL debut album. And for the first time in 19 years, there wasn't a white man nominated for Album of the Year.

As we blindly celebrated the variety of Black artists in the categories, we forgot that our hopes of said artists actually winning in the big categories—Album, Song and Record of the Year—would not be met.

The most memorable shock of the night came when Jay-Z, the most nominated artist of the night, didn't take home a single award. Lamar won five of his seven nominations, with all of them being strictly confined in the rap categories (save for "Humble" winning Best Music Video). This also marked the third time the rapper got shut out in the Album of the Year category, losing to Taylor Swift in 2016 and Daft Punk in 2014. As for SZA? The supposed woman of the evening left the ceremony empty-handed, notably losing Best New Artist to Alessia Cara. Fonsi lost all three of his nominations, while Jay-Z and K-Dot lost to Bruno Mars a total of three times. Mars winning all six of his nominations poses the question if the Recording Academy continues to support safer, more accessible music to music with a politically-driven or vulnerable message. 

The "Finesse" singer sweeping the big categories shoved hip-hop further down the music barrel, as the genre rarely achieves recognition for album, song and record of the year. As Billboard points out, the only rap album to win Album of the Year has been OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2004. And in the show's 60-year history, no rapper has ever took home the GRAMMY for either song or record of the year.

With hip-hop becoming the most popular genre of 2017, it's jarring to see music's biggest night be so unaware of the very music that breathes influence to almost every popular artist on the charts. Yes, the Best Rap and Best R&B categories are important wins. But stop trying to force these singers and rappers into boxes that are too small for their culture-shifting messages.

As we try to figure out what it will take for the Recording Academy to make some sort of a change in their voting decisions, take it back to Blueprint III-era Jay-Z where he tells Fuse why we wants hip-hop to be more conscious (it seems like he got his wish):