Drake, Cardi B, & Childish Gambino Won Big, But That Doesn't Fix The Grammys' Fraught Relationship With Hip-Hop

This year’s Grammys were filled with moments that hip-hop
artists (and fans) can celebrate. Cardi B became the first
solo female rapper to win Best Rap Album
. Donald Glover (aka
Childish Gambino) was the
first hip-hop artist to win Song of the Year
for his track
“This Is America,” which also won Record of the Year. But its

Drake’s win for Best Rap Song that stands out most
, because it
perfectly exemplifies the fraught relationship hip-hop still has
with the Grammys, despite these notable successes.

Until Drake won for “God’s Plan” and walked onto the stage, it
wasn’t clear that he was even in attendance at the show. The artist
didn’t appear at the last two Grammy ceremonies and
didnt even submit More Life
for awards consideration last year,
so it was a surprise to some that he came to the 2019 show. It
makes sense, then, that his acceptance speech offered a pointed
criticism of the Recording Academy, which has honored him three
times previously, but never in major categories. It’s something
that has apparently always bothered Drake, as he explained in the
speech, which seemingly criticized the Grammys overall.

“This is a business where sometimes its up to a bunch of people
that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to
say or a fly Spanish girl from New York, or a brother from
Houston,” he said. “But look, the point is, youve already won if
you have people who are singing your songs word for word… you
dont need this right here. I promise you that.”

With that, Drake’s speech was cut short, not an especially good
look for an awards show whose
outgoing president Neil Portnow
stood on stage preaching about
diversity and inclusion and all the strides the Grammys were making
a year after he told
women they have to “step up”
if they wanted to actually win.
The Grammys have also historically overlooked artists of color,
specifically hip-hop artists.

So the point of Drake’s speech, before he was cut off, was that
while it was an honor to win, the Grammys have some serious work to
do to improve. Just consider the fact that if Drake, Kendrick
Lamar, or Cardi B had taken home the
Album of the Year, which went to Kacey Musgraves
, they would
have been the first hip-hop artists to win since Outkast won in
2004 for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

Thats why its hard not to feel like all the talk of inclusion in
the telecast was a bit of a facade behind the scenes, the Grammys
have plenty of work to do when it comes to representation. There
have been some positive steps taken, like the recently launched

Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion
meant to help make sure
winners better represent the music world, and the world in general.
According to Billboard,
the Grammys also expanded the number of nominees
in four major
categories Best New Artist, Record Of The Year, Song of the Year,
and Album of the Year from five to eight nominees, in hopes of
giving more opportunities to performers, who are too often
overlooked.

Yet while these changes may have helped earn some love for
hip-hop and artists of color, they don’t fully solve some of the
deeper problems the Grammys have with representation. Often, wins
for black artists and others of color are relegated to the
genre-specific categories that dont even air during the live
telecast.

According to a tweet from Essence, rappers
even boycotted the Grammys 30 years ago
because the show
refused to televise the award for Best Rap Performance. In 2019,
two rap awards were given out on the main broadcast, but rappers
are still boycotting the show in hopes of getting fair
representation. This new wave of protest is a sign to music fans
that their favorite artists dont feel the Grammys represent them or
even truly understands this diversity problem, despite a long
history of protest.

And as the Atlantic pointed out,
changes to expand the number of nominees
in major categories
might not fix some of this distrust from black artists. This group,
historically, is among the most-nominated in any given year, John
Vilanova at the Atlantic explained, though General Field wins are
few and far between. Black artists can sell records, rule the
charts, and get critical acclaim (cough, Beyonc,
who’s somehow never won Album of the Year
), but they typically
havent been honored for those achievements in the same way as white
artists.

Yet, as Entertainment Weekly pointed out in 2017, black
artists are likely asked to perform at the show regardless
,
because they bring in viewers. If [artists of color are] not going
to be given the respect from this organization, then why even show
up and entertain? pop culture expert and SiriusXM host Bevy Smith
told EW two years ago. And the Recording Academy is now seeing this
in major nominees like Drake, Kendrick, and Donald Glover all
turning down the opportunity to perform.
Childish Gambino, who won three awards
, two of which were on
the broadcast, didn’t even show up to the show. And Lamar, who won
for Best Rap Performance, also stayed home this year.

By ignoring these artists, the Grammys are starting to lose
them, which is clearly a problem for a show that calls itself the
biggest night in music. Without musics biggest stars, theres not
much reason for fans to care about the
Grammys, which are trying to stay culturally relevant
. The
trend of no-shows is spreading fast, too. Winners like Beyonc and
Jay-Z, who has boycotted before, werent there, and
Ariana Grande decided not to perform
or even attend the show
after she claimed on Twitter her creativity & self-expression
was stifled by Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich.

The fact that there were two different hip-hop firsts at this
year’s awards is a sign that change is happening, even if it’s
taken too long to come. But, to win back the trust of artists of
color, the Recording Academy will have to show they are committed
to actual progress and convince artists that they understand their
concerns. It’s about making real, lasting change, not cutting off
speeches.

Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News 2
Drake, Cardi B, & Childish Gambino Won Big, But That Doesn't Fix The Grammys' Fraught Relationship With Hip-Hop