Hip-hop has always had a contentious relationship with the Grammys, but it seems that this year more than any other, the long-running awards show is having problems maintaining its grip on the genre’s attention. In an interview with New York Times, Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich lamented the show’s inability to even interest the genre’s most widely-recognized artists in performing for “the biggest night in music” with a guaranteed audience of millions.
Ehrlich reported that, although the Grammys had offered performances to Childish Gambino, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar (all of whom are tabbed to take home at least one award by bookmakers), “The fact of the matter is, we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world.” He hypothesized that, “When they don’t take home the big prize, the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad.”
The fact of the matter is, rappers have long felt that the awards show doesn’t do them justice since Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff skipped the show — and the first ever rap Grammy, which they won — in protest that their award wouldn’t be televised. Even when they do show up, their appearances are fraught with tension, knowing that any given year, Macklemore could overturn Kendrick, who leads the three above mentioned artists in snubs, or that Drake could win a rap award for a song where he mostly sings (and dances). And while did perform at last year’s ceremony, he was very nearly swept out of every category he was nominated for — except for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Redbone,” which, come on.
Meanwhile, hip-hop fans usually tune out the show altogether, between the perception that their favorites are being snubbed, that innovation in hip-hop is being sidelined by popularity, and that the categories are far too broad in scope, leading to truly great albums being overlooked. But more than anything, hip-hop feels like a second-class citizen at the Grammys, and until the show can find a way to reverse that perception, rappers — and their fans — will continue to forego the ceremony, which is bad news as hip-hop continues to become more mainstream than ever.