The Grammy Awards are music’s most distinguished recognition and winning Album of the Year is a dream all artists hope to attain at some point in their career. But for black artists, that dream will always remain just that: A dream and never a reality. Making a statement like that may seem a bit harsh, until empirical data unflinchingly reveals the the numbers and names over the years that break down just how unlikely it is for a black artist to win the most coveted award.
Houston-based singer and outspoken social media user Jack Freeman took the liberty of doing a little digging into the history of the Grammys selecting black artists for Album of the Year and shared his finds on Twitter in a very lengthy but highly informative thread.
What he ended up finding was Beyonce isn’t the only celebrated black artist to never win AOTY. She’s just the latest in a very long line of some of the world’s greatest entertainers of color who haven’t won the award. As Freeman points out in his initial tweet, only 12 black artists have won Album of the Year in the nearly 60 years worth of ceremonies. Yes, a whole twelve out of the scores of past and modern day greats and, actually, the total is actually 11 since Stevie Wonder counts for three of those wins.
Beyonce joins a list that includes names like her husband Jay Z, Prince, D’Angelo, R. Kelly, Dr. Dre, Sam Cook, Bobby Womack and others who have sold countless records and helped shape the sound and culture of America. Yet, they don’t get the full recognition they’ve rightfully earned. Instead, they’re all funneled into the Urban category in a one-size fits all scenario, where even then, they may not win because they’re competing in a stacked group.
Freeman also notes one thing that many people tend to overlook: most of the awards in the Urban category traditionally aren’t included in the televised show. They relegated to pre-show ceremonies and later added to bylines and footnotes to Wikipedia entries instead of getting the full attention they deserve. And at the end of show, black artists rarely take the stage to collect the night’s most coveted awards. That hasn’t happened since Herbie Hancock in 2008.
“It’s definitely an honor to win a Grammy, but I’m sure black artists would LOVE to be acknowledged way more outside of ‘urban,'” Freeman wrote. “We consistently make the best shit. And shift culture for EVERYONE. We make shit that literally stops the world. But only get ‘urban’ acknowledgment. That’s ridiculous.”
Check out handful of Freeman’s tweets where he drops jewels on how the Grammys overlooked black artists below. It’s well worth taking a trip to his Twitter thread to see everything he had to say.