Kanye West takes pride in being a polymath. He is a rapper, a singer, a producer, a songwriter, a film director, a designer, a visual artist, and, in his estimation, some sort of deity. Of all of the titles and adjectives used to describe him, it’s difficult to find anyone, even among the most rabid of his core fans, who calls him humble because the Chicago native has never been one to deny his own greatness.
Over the course of the last year, we have gotten several opportunities to (over)analyze him and his motivation. He’s given his own sermons from his man-made mount on the Yeezus tour. He’s given peeks into his thought process on talk show couches, in podcast studios, and during live radio shows for several months now. At this point, Kanye’s given us incontrovertible evidence that he’s an arrogant, egomaniacal, sociopath. Right? Maybe. Maybe not.
Consider the 2007 BET Hip-Hop Awards. Kanye’s checkered relationship with award shows is well-documented. I wouldn’t be surprised if the attendees let out a collective sigh of relief when he was awarded a trophy for “Video Of The Year” for his hit single “Stronger.” However, seconds into his acceptance speech a relaxed and content looking Kanye thanked BET for the award, and then proceeded to hand it over to Outkast and UGK for what he believed to be a more deserving piece of work, “International Players Anthem.”
I can’t think of anything that better signifies what really motivates Kanye to do what he does. In addition to his never-ending pursuit of greatness, Kanye is obsessed with history. Nothing makes him angrier than perceived inaccuracies in the record. The same thing that made him give his own award to someone he deemed more deserving, is what gave him the unmitigated gall to interrupt Taylor Swift on stage as she accepted an award for which he wasn’t even nominated. He doesn’t just want you to recognize his greatness, but all greatness.
Still, when I look at the clip, I wonder if Kanye would have handed over a Grammy award quite so easily. The Grammys hold much more weight in the aforementioned historical record than any other music-related award, even though it shouldn’t. This is clearly evidenced by the 2014 Rap Album of the Year Grammy being awarded to Macklemore.
Macklemore was in the unenviable position of being up for a Grammy that almost everyone knew he was going to win, and almost nobody thought he deserved. He said as much in a publicized text message to the people’s champ Kendrick Lamar, when he apologized for “robbing” him. He even said that he planned to say as much on stage, but he froze.
Why do those of us that love Hip-Hop care so much about that little golden gramophone? Our artists make songs about it, and constantly refer to it in their lyrics. Why does it matter so much to us, when it doesn’t matter enough to those in the academy to get the nominations and awards right? As much as Kanye wants to be in the history books, he may be looking in the wrong section of the library.
The “Rap Album of the Year” Grammy was first awarded in 1996. Do you know who was nominated? Skee-Lo for I Wish. Do you know who wasn’t nominated that same year? Jay-Z for Reasonable Doubt and Nas for It Was Written.
Remember when Hip-Hop’s greats boycotted The Grammys in the late ‘80s, when the academy didn’t think Hip-Hop awards were worthy of televising? This is nothing new. They usually get it wrong, but we still believe that their ice is colder and their awards are shinier.
Maybe if we value our media outlets, our fans, and ourselves a little bit more, we can have less stress over glorified sippy cups and ashtrays.