Will The Grammys Finally Right A 25-Year Wrong?

Senior Pop Culture Editor
01.23.14 24 Comments

It’s been 25 years since the Grammy acknowledged this thing called “rap” for the first time, when the inaugural Grammy for Best Rap Performance went to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The category would only last one more year, when Young MC upset Public Enemy, before being brought back again in 2012. (Amusingly, Jay-Z and Kanye West won that year and 2013 for songs on the same album, “Otis” and “N*ggas in Paris.”) The Grammys have occasionally thrown rap artists a bone by giving them their own categories like Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song, but the far more prestigious Song or Record of the Year? Ha.

Here are the hip-hop songs (some less so than others) that have been nominated for Song of the Year since 1989.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
“Jesus Walks” by Kanye West
“Umbrella” by Rihanna ft. Jay Z
“American Boy” by Estelle ft. Kanye West
“Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem ft. Rihanna
“All of the Lights” by Kanye West

So, Kanye and Eminem, basically. If you expand the search to Record of the Year:

“U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer
“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio
“Dilemma” by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland
“Crazy in Love” by Beyonce ft. Jay Z
“Where Is the Love?” by Black Eyed Peas ft. Justin Timberlake
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
“Hey Ya!” by Outkast
“Let’s Get It Started” by Black Eyed Peas
“Yeah!” by Usher ft. Lil Jon and Ludacris
“Gold Digger” by Kanye West
“Umbrella” by Rihanna ft. Jay Z
“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
“Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem ft. Rihanna
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys
“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars

Better, but still no winners. That could change on Sunday with this year’s Song nominees.

“Just Give Me a Reason” by Pink ft. Nate Ruess
“Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars
“Roar” by Katy Perry
“Royals” by Lorde
“Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

There’s a really good chance that “Same Love” will make Grammy history. Let Grantland’s Steven Hyden explain.

1. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were among the most successful pop acts of this Grammy voting period, scoring two no. 1 singles (“Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us”) and moving more than 1.2 million copies of their independently released album, The Heist. This is important because the Grammys like rewarding success.

2. “Same Love” was also a hit, but not as big as “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” peaking at “only” no. 11. It is the only nominee in the Song of the Year category that did not go to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. A pro-gay-marriage anthem, “Same Love” is also the only “message” song in the category. This is important because while the Grammys like rewarding success, they also want to be perceived as being progressive. (Via)

Hyden goes on to discuss what it would mean if Macklemore, a white dude from Seattle, were to win the first Song of the Year award for a genre of music predominantly associated with black people, but I’ll leave that for him to explain. (Interestingly, the Grammys were reluctant to call Macklemore a “rap group.”) I’m more interested in whether the Grammys will right a 25-year wrong, and FINALLY give one of the Big Four awards to an oft-ignored genre, even if no one “gives a f*ck about a goddamn Grammy.” Put another way: Bette Midler has twice as many Song of the Year trophies as EVERY rapper combined. That needs to change, even if a white guy’s the one to do it.

Banner via Getty Image, via Grantland

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