Does Losing A Major Grammy Actually Help An Artist More?

01.24.18 9 months ago

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Spending long days and nights perfecting his craft in Queensbridge, a young Nasir Jones probably never imagined he’d someday win a Grammy for the same words that flowed so effortlessly from his pen. Rap itself only began to be recognized at the famed award show in 1996; one year later, Nas was among good company with his nomination for “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).”

Twenty years and a hell of a career later, Jones has racked up 13 Grammy nominations — but still hasn’t taken home a single trophy. Snoop Dogg has an even more impressive history of Grammy snubs, boasting an egregious 17 unsung nominations for stone-cold classics including “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” “Still D.R.E.,” and “Gin And Juice.” The list of rappers that the world at large has recognized as legends who have never won a Grammy is maddening, and begs the question: Does the honor actually indicates anything about the success of an otherwise untouchable hip-hop career?

Though actually walking home with a Grammy might not be the most important thing in any particular career, simply being in the conversation might be. When describing Grammys and other awards we — and those using them as a means of braggadocio on the record — generally stick to numbers as a means of measurement. You don’t often hear artists say things like, “I won (insert Grammy category here) in 2003,” but Jay-Z will boast, “21 Grammys, I’m a savage.” Expressing such a stacked statistic is an easier method of gloating, but winning one specific Grammy is arguably not nearly as important as losing one.

A blue text bubble that reads, “you got robbed” springs to mind for all those who remember the anger they felt when Macklemore racked up four new pieces of hardware in 2014, notably beating out Good Kid, m.A.A.d City for Best Rap Album. Yes, Kendrick Lamar left his first Grammys empty-handed after being nominated seven times. Not only did Macklemore figuratively steal an award that nearly the entire hip-hop community considered to be the property of Kendrick, but he made things worse by later texting the Compton rapper expressing his guilt, and posting said text to Instagram. If the Seattle native really thought K.Dot’s gritty tales of one of hip-hop’s most vital cities was more deserving of Best Rap Album than his record, why didn’t he acknowledge that from the stage? Or maybe Macklemore’s scrambling thereafter was an effort to help himself win back the hearts of a community already largely dismissive of his place in the genre.

While it would’ve been spectacular to see the hard work of Lamar’s debut studio album be vindicated by winning Best Rap Album, his loss got more publicity than winning an award ever could’ve. In a flubbed attempt at winning back his public perception by posting his apology message to K.Dot on Instagram, Macklemore ended up only driving more fans, more recognition, and more success Kendrick’s way. Since then, Mr. Duckworth has now taken home seven Grammys, but in retrospect, the defining moment that followed his upsetting snub in 2014 was arguably one of the best things that could have happened for the newly prospering rapper.

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