Is there any group of people in the world more full of wisdom than the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences? I’m kidding of course. If you watched the Grammys last week–or ever for that matter–you know how willfully negligent this award show is.
Indeed, the academy has a long and shameful history of having it’s head up it’s ass. For proof, all one needs to do is look at some of their “Album’s of the Year.” In 1960, Frank Sinatra’s Come Dance With Me received that distinction while Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue wasn’t nominated.
So they slept on that one. Anyone could have done that. Then there was 1966, Frank Sinatra won again while Rubber Soul, Highway 61 Revisited, A Love Supreme and Otis Blue all went ignored. The following year, the Grammys really decided to shake things up. Naturally, Frank Sinatra won Best Album, but the big drama was that it beat out a little-known record by The Beatles that I’m sure no one can remember. It’s also worth mentioning that Pet Sounds and Blonde On Blonde weren’t even nominated that year. Needless to say, it has always been like this. Is it any wonder why the Grammys aren’t taken seriously?
Fast forward to the present, where a new level of shit-headedness reigns supreme–and I’m not just talking about how Kendrick Lamar lost “Album of the Year” to Daft Punk, or how Kanye West wasn’t even nominated. The real indignity was when Kendrick Lamar lost “Rap Album of The Year,” not to Kanye West, A$AP Rocky or Danny Brown (of these, only Kanye was nominated, by the way). K-dot lost to, drum roll please … dum dum dum.
I want you to think about that for a second–if you can, that is, without your head exploding. I would also like to meet the person, who after listening to both of these albums decided, “I just think this nonthreatening Macklemore fellow is the better rapper.” It’s not just wrong. It’s comical. More importantly–and I’m just going to come out and say it–it’s racist.
Some might suggest another explanation, too–that these awards are only about record sales. While that theory doesn’t always hold true, it certainly could partially explain this. At the very least, I think we can all agree that objectivity was clearly not a factor in this decision. They might as well have invited Herbie Hancock only to give a lifetime achievement award to Kenny G.
On a somewhat unrelated note, Macklemore’s contrived, completely saccharine gay marriage thing didn’t help the cause at all. As someone who supports marriage equality and loves hip-hop, I’d like to set the record straight (no pun intended). There is presently a tremendous amount of excellent–and popular–gay rappers. Hip Hop wouldn’t, “hate (Macklemore) if he were gay”–as he so bonerishly professes. Hip-hop would hate him no matter what. We have a name for folks like him in the community: “sucka MC.”
All of that notwithstanding, had it ended there I would have just let it go, but it didn’t. The day after the awards, it was so obvious that Macklemore shouldn’t have won the Best Rap Album that he took it upon himself to personally apologize to Kendrick Lamar. Fair enough. Did he treat Kendrick like a man? Did he have a conciliatory conversation over coffee? Shoot him an email? Perhaps a phone call? No. He took to his own Instagram, and twitter–an interesting choice as a means for communication, considering it needlessly involves the rest of the world.
He twitted the following:
“(Kendrick) You got robbed. I wanted you to win. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you. I was going to say that during the acceptance speech but…”
But nothing. Macklemore didn’t say anything about it during his speech because he never intended to. If he did, why didn’t he begin his speech by saying it?
Kendrick responded gracefully to Macklemore’s twattings during an interview with XXL. He described Macklemore’s win as, “well-deserved.”
So why does any of this matter? The Grammys certainly aren’t important. No one with any taste at all cares about them. I think the reason this bothers me is that there is only one nationally-televised award show for music on a major network. It’s the sort of thing, as a music lover, I wish I could look forward to. Yet, every year it feels like a squandered opportunity to celebrate the year’s best music. Additionally, have you ever noticed that every time a black artist makes a classic album, they’re systematically snubbed in favor of a less interesting white artist? For example, Mumford and Sons beat out Frank Ocean last year … I mean, really?! Who is Mumford and Sons?
What’s worse is that quality music is generally ignored until years after the fact. Only then do the Grammys cheapen it in the form of exploitation. Like this year, when Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr played an uninspired, forgettable set together. Yet, when they were making some of the most iconic music of the 20th century, the academy largely ignored them. They did the same thing to Ray Charles, Miles Davis, and James Brown. None of them were really acknowledged until long after their prime.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you give a complete douche bag an award and even he knows it’s fraudulent, you’re probably doing something wrong. I just wish it was better. It sure as hell could be.
Watch Lamar freestyle (and fawking kill it … “You’re career ain’t shit until you’ve got some Kendrick in it”) on the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher below:
is a freelance writer and hipster emeritus. His work has appeared in various impressive publications including the one you’re enjoying now and he has his own music blog where he reviews music both old and new: oldnewborrowedblew.blogspot.com