The relationship between the Grammys and Hip Hop has been a rocky one from the start. The first Best Rap Performance award was marred in controversy when the eventual winners boycotted the ceremony because the category was not aired on television like other genres.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince won that 1989 Best Rap Performance trophy for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The other nominees that year were J.J. Fad’s “Supersonic,” Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West,” LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali,” and Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It.”
Fast forward 31 years later, the Recording Academy has now named Salt-N-Pepa as one of the music organization’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award honorees. The all-female group was one of the earliest Hip Hop acts to crossover into the mainstream with records such as “Push It,” “Expression,” and “Do You Want Me.”
Hip Hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five will also be recognized with a 2021 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The South Bronx, New York City collective played a pivotal role in Hip Hop culture growing from a localized party scene in the 1970s to a global phenomenon by the turn of the millennium.
Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, and Deidra “DJ Spinderella” Roper were the first female rappers to win a Grammy Award for “None of Your Business” in 1995 (Queen Latifah won a Grammy that same year). Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first Hip Hop inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Lionel Hampton, Marilyn Horne, Selena, and Talking Heads are the Record Academy’s other 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Ed Cherney, Benny Golson, and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds will receive the Trustees Award. Daniel Weiss is being presented with the Technical Grammy Award. All of the Special Merit awardees will be recognized at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on January 31, 2021.
“As we welcome the new class of Special Merit Award honorees, it gives us a chance to reward and recognize the influence they’ve had in the music community regardless of genre,” stated Harvey Mason Jr., Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, in a press release.
Mason continued, As a music creator and music lover, I am grateful that we are able to look back at our influences and see the impact that they have made on our community. In a year where music has helped keep us together, I look forward to honoring this iconic group of music creators.”