The Grammys got it wrong again; why are we surprised?


The morning after…
The day after the Grammys is always interesting. Everyone talking about which performances they liked, which ones they hated, and which award winners were undeserving–it’s as much a part of awards season as the actual ceremony. After last night’s 56th Annual Grammy Awards, most hip-hop fans are feeling bitter over Macklemore & Ryan Lewis taking home Best Rap Album honors for their popular LP The Heist. Many fans, including this writer, thought that Kendrick Lamar‘s critically acclaimed opus good kid, m.A.A.d city should take the category. The fact that it didn’t has led to widespread derision from fans who believe the pop-friendly white rapper got preferential treatment over the serious, black artist.

But this is what the Grammys always do. White, black, whatever–they get it wrong consistently.

The very first Best Rap Album Grammy was handed out in 1996. That award went to Naughty By Nature‘s Poverty’s Paradise, an album that isn’t exactly one of the more talked-about hip-hop records of its time. It isn’t even a very talked-about record in Naughty’s canon. Poverty’s Paradise took the award over the much more lauded, and in retrospect, more historically significant Me Against the World, the first truly brilliant album from Tupac Shakur. That selection was a harbinger of what was to come. While the Grammys have gotten it right on occasion, they most often get it wrong.

Did anyone really think Release Therapy by Ludacris was the best rap album of 2006-2007? Does Eminem really deserve to have five wins–including one for 2009s god-awful Relapse?

The elephant in the room, as it pertains to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, is race. It should be noted that Eminem has won almost every time he’s been nominated (his Encore lost to Kanye West‘s Late Registration in 2006), so there’s definitely bias there. In addition to racial biases, there is also pop bias. The Grammys are a very middle-of-the-road awards show, which is why many musicians dismiss their validity entirely. It is not just the Best Rap Album category that highlights their cluelessness–it is the entirety of the show itself.

Honestly, how many hip-hop fans can even name what albums win Rap Album of the Year? Do we really care?

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