Rap Producers Run Pop, So Why Won’t The Grammys Notice?

01.25.18 10 months ago

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The producer with the most hits on the Top 40 of the Hot 100 last year was the 24-year-old Metro Boomin. He had 11 smash singles, including Future’s “Mask Off,” Kodak Black’s “Tunnel Vision,” 21 Savage’s “Bank Account,” Gucci Mane’s “I Get The Bag” and Migos’ “Motorsport” — a commanding collection of inescapable hip-hop hits.

As a hip-hop producer dominating the charts, Metro Boomin is not alone. The production team with the second-most credits on Top 40 hits was Cubeatz with eight (Travis Scott, Drake, Nicki Minaj). Tied for third was Sounwave, the in-house producer for TDE (Kendrick Lamar). Tied for fourth were Mike WiLL Made-It (Rae Sremmurd, Yo Gotti) and DJ Dahi (Lamar). In all, seven of the top ten most successful producers this year are known for their work in rap.

It would make sense, then, for the Grammy nominees for the Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical award to reflect hip-hop’s dominance. But they don’t. At all. Of the five producers up for the honor this year, only one, No I.D., comes from a rap background. The Stereotypes occasionally dabble in the form, but they are up for the award because of their work on Bruno Mars’ throwback R&B extravaganza 24K Magic. Blake Mills (mostly rock and singer/songwriters) and Greg Kurstin (pop) have little facility with hip-hop. Calvin Harris spent seemingly every dollar he had buying countless rap features to boost his latest album, but he doesn’t really know how to produce hip-hop, and none of his singles made it inside the Top 20 in the US.

The Grammys’ decision to ignore rap producers is not a new development. In fact, since Dr. Dre won Producer Of The Year in 2001, just one other producer (or production group) with serious rap credentials — and ongoing involvement in rap — has taken home the award: The Neptunes in 2004. (Pharrell also won on his own after storming the world with “Happy,” not exactly a rap song.) From year to year, it’s routine that a hip-hop producer won’t even be nominated.

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