(AllHipHop Editorial) There has been a lot of discussion in the press the last few days about the Hip Hop community’s reaction to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ win for Best Rap Album at this year’s Grammys Awards.
Most of the attention has focused on Macklemore being a white rapper as the cause for the blowup. However, centering the conversation around race is an inaccurate deception of why the Hip Hop community was pissed. In reality, it had nothing to do with the color of Macklemore’s skin and everything to do with the quality of his product.
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For some reason, there are people that want to display core rap fans as racist for not embracing Macklemore’s triumph on Grammy night. Those same people clearly do not understand the history of Hip Hop. While the culture was started by Black and Latino youth in the 1970’s, it has long incorporated participants of every race and nationality.
You can just look at a superstar like Eminem as a prime example. Em gets his fair share of hate, but he is also well-respected by many rap purists. You can even go back to the Beastie Boys and MC Serch, or currently look at artists like Mac Miller, Alchemist, Necro, or El-P.
Plus, the Hip Hop community includes hosts of white journalists, visual artists, DJs, and producers (including the legendary Rick Rubin) that have greatly contributed to the culture. Even Macklemore has been championed for years. He was selected as one of XXL magazine’s freshman class members in 2012, and AllHipHop did an exclusive feature on him that same year.
Hip Hop has never discriminated against race. It does have an aversion for disrespect, and that’s what Macklemore’s Best Rap Album win represents for many in Hip Hop. It’s this feeling that the “The Establishment” still doesn’t respect our art form enough to actually give credit to the works that deserve to be recognized.
Let’s be clear, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had an amazing year. Their album went platinum. They had two number one singles on the Billboard charts. The reached a level of success that should be celebrated and rewarded, but the question at hand is: Did they release the best rap album of the year?
Most followers of rap music, both the press and the fans, would most likely say no. It’s not a stretch to assume Hip Hop listeners think that honor should have gone to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city. K. Dot’s major label debut is arguably one of the greatest albums of any genre over the last several years. Music critics hailed it as a masterpiece evidenced by its Metacritic.com rating of 91/100 (The Heist’s rating is 74/100).
Macklemore himself stated publicly that GKMC was the most deserving of the award telling The Source, “In terms of [that category], I think it should go to Kendrick… We obviously had massive success on commercial radio, and I think that, in ways, The Heist was a bigger album, but Kendrick has a better rap album.”
So if good kid, m.A.A.d city was the favorite to win Best Rap Album based on critical acclaim, support from rap fans, and a fellow nominee calling for its victory, why didn’t it win?
One excuse has been because Macklemore is a more mainstream artist. Well, Kendrick’s album sold nearly as many copies as Macklemore’s: 1,143,000 to 1,269,000. Kendrick has videos on YouTube with over 20 million views, and he also appeared on nationwide magazine covers for GQ and ESPN.
Not to mention he was clearly well-known enough to garner 7 Grammy nominations including Album of the Year, so it would seem Grammy members were aware of who he is. And if it was just about name recognition, wouldn’t Jay Z, Kanye West, or Drake have taken home the award? They are all more famous than both Kendrick and Macklemore and each already have at least one Best Rap Album Grammy win.
There’s no way to really tell why the Grammys decided to award Macklemore with the title of best rap album of the year. It could have been voters selected someone that resembles the person they see in the mirror (which happens in all aspects of life). It could have been that the left leaning Academy decided to honor Macklemore’s pro-gay marriage stance. It could have been inside industry politics. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it was not because Macklemore had the better body of work which should have been the only criteria that truly mattered.
This is at the heart of Hip Hop’s beef with the Grammys; it’s not anger at Macklemore or his race. After 40 years in existence (outliving other genres of music); after being co-opted into television commercials and print ads to sell products; after producing cross over megastars like Will Smith, Jay Z, LL Cool J, and Queen Latifah; after the President of the United States proudly confesses his love for the culture; after all this, the finest example of our artistry is still not properly celebrated by those who claim that their sole purpose is to do just that.
We lived through some of our greatest representatives like Public Enemy, Nas, 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Run DMC, and many others getting completely ignored by the Grammys.
We lived through the fact that four decades later, only two of our albums have ever won the Grammy for Album of the Year despite such musical masterworks as Paid in Full, Midnight Marauders, The Chronic, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The College Dropout.
We lived through questionable Grammy decisions before like Young MC’s “Bust a Move” beating Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in 1990 for Best Rap Performance or the Black Eyed Peas’ back-to-back wins in the Best Rap Performance Duo/Group category in 2005 and 2006.
We know how this has all played out in the past, but this is the one time, with all the across-the-board acknowledgements given to Kendrick’s classic LP, that we hoped the Grammys would finally respect Hip Hop for its artistic excellence, and not just reward the hype.