It’s no secret that the Grammys have a huge hip-hop problem. Uproxx has addressed this issue on numerous occasions and even offered our own helpful (we think) suggestions for possibly fixing it. However, after a couple of years in which the Recording Academy’s Grammy committee at least acknowledged some of the best, most representative projects, the 2020 rap category nominees — to say nothing of the Album Of The Year selections — not only left something to be desired, but they also left one of the year’s best, most well-received projects out in the cold.
Rapsody, whose 2020 masterpiece Eve was snubbed despite being critically hailed and about as socially relevant as a rap album can get, was mostly magnanimous in her praise for the other nominees (this contrasted with some of the more bombastic reactions from other rap artists). Anyone could tell how disappointed she was that Eve wasn’t announced as one of them, though. “There’s so much power and weight in numbers, nominations, and awards,” she acknowledged in a lengthy Instagram post after taking some time to process the snub. However, she also noted that “Art is too important not to share,” and said that the important part of creating is getting “people to continue to discover and play and be inspired by the music.”
But there’s no getting around it: The Grammys have gotten hip-hop and rap-related awards more wrong than they’ve gotten right, subjective nature of those opinions notwithstanding. Sometimes, the albums and records that stay with the audience the longest are those being made in the sphere of hip-hop’s influence, innovating and demonstrating technical craftsmanship in equal or even greater measure than their analogs in other categories. So, what’s the solution? During Rapsody’s December visit to Uproxx’s offices in Los Angeles, we discussed some possible ways to fix the Grammys’ nomination process, why Grammys never really mattered to rap in the first place, and whether or not hip-hop actually needs the nod from the establishment (spoiler: it doesn’t, but the nod does help).
It feels like when the Grammys nominated your excellent album Laila’s Wisdom for Best Rap Album in 2018, that was a step forward and likewise for Cardi B’s Best Rap Album win for Invasion Of Privacy last year. But this year no albums from women were even nominated. Why does it feel like two steps forward and three steps back?
You got to get the Grammy people in here. That would be a dope interview if you got some of the Grammy people in and just talked about the process of how they go about doing it. I think that would be very informative and good. But I can’t necessarily speak for them.
But, it was very shocking to see. Because with me, I’m very realistic about who I am, my celebrity, how we’re shown is. I think the Grammys are doing better and they’re trying, and that’s why I would never ever get on any platform and say, “F*ck the Grammys.” Because I honestly know that they are trying.
But I think they spoke on it, that they have created committees for every genre. And within these committees are Grammy-voting members, but they’re of the culture. So, if it’s of hip-hop, it’s of hip-hop.
How do you always maintain such a balanced and nuanced response to these things? Because as an artist, you’re emotionally sensitive. Like Erykah Badu said, “We sensitive about our sh*t.”
And she’s not lying. When I found out that day, I was not in a good way. And I still had to do press that day. But I tried my best to be in control of my emotions and never react off emotions. Because I always have to take my time with, “Okay, Rap. Feel how you feel.”
Without a doubt, I know it was one of the best of the year. That’s just how I feel. But I have to tell myself, “Sh*t, Michael Jackson didn’t get nominated one year.”
Right. Prince’s only album Grammy came from Purple Rain.
And when you put this in perspective, you ask yourself, “Why are you feeling the way you are feeling? At the end of the day, what’s the reason for it?” And I said, “Well, dang. I didn’t get in it for awards.”
I didn’t really, honestly know about the Grammys until I got nominated with Kendrick for To Pimp A Butterfly. Now what I did care about were the BET, Soul Train, NAACP, because that’s what I grew up on.
At the end of the day, I got into it because I wanted to make art that spoke to people and touched people. That’s what I did with Eve. I had to tell myself, “I’m mad, because I feel like in order for me to have more exposure, for people to hear my music and respect my art, that’s what I feel like I need.”
Right. If you can say “Grammy-nominated/winning”…
That means something.
Is it okay to want it? Yes. But if it doesn’t happen that’s not why you did it and that’s not what defines you or your legacy. So I had to put that part in perspective.
The MVP is nice to have…
But I want the championship.
So what is this disconnect with women? So though the Grammys may be trying to get it right, obviously there’s still a ways to go.
I just think so many of their voters are not in our spaces.
Right. So, it just says, “Okay, though you’re trying, nothing’s ever perfect. But we’re still getting it right.” And I choose to look at it that way. It’s all in what you choose to do. You have the power to affect how you feel and what you choose to look at it. So it’s all in perspective. Like I said, you should bring the Grammys in here and have a conversation on how it works.
If I knew who all was on that committee, I would do it.
It’s just ideas on, “Okay, instead of being mad about it, how can we create conversations to make it better? How can we even educate our people on how the process works?” Because sometimes you can say, “Man, a lot of the people that are of the voting body of people don’t even know, ‘I need to vote every year.'” And some of us don’t vote. Or for rap album, we’re going to open it up to everybody to vote, country, pop. Or maybe it should just be people in a certain culture.
People within that genre who work in that genre. Because they’re going to vote for who they know.
Exactly. And it’s not about the music, it’s about popularity and name recognition.
It’s incredible to me that you said that you didn’t know the Grammys before you got nominated for a Grammy, that you cared about the NAACP Awards, the Soul Train Awards, the BET Awards. My question is, why do you think that we don’t value these award shows that are ours as much as we seem to value something like the Grammys or the AMAs? And more so, how do we get back to that? How do we make our thing feel and seem as prestigious as their thing? Is that possible? Is it even necessary?
I think it’s necessary. It’s always good for us to have a space where we celebrate us, that’s honest to us. How we get back to it is in the same way that it has to be authentic and honest and not about popularity for the Grammys, it has to be that for us, too. I’ve seen our award shows nominate people who didn’t even put out music that year, just off popularity and name recognition, and not about music.
We started boycotting the Grammys in 1989. So for us, we’ve always fought to feel equal. When sometimes just being us was enough. Even after we talk about this with Freedom Schools, yes, integration is great because it allows you to understand the world that you will live in is bigger than your community. And you will have to interact with other people. And it’s great to learn from other cultures and other races, learn from everybody. But to completely lose Freedom Schools, that hurt us, too. Because sometimes you have to have your own space for people to understand and be able to teach the way you need to, and to have the power and ownership of that.
Personally, like I’ve told you before, the reason why I held it so high was because it was the only space that I had been invited in. When I got nominated for a Grammy, I had never been nominated for a BET Award, Soul Train Award, NAACP Award. So I was like, “Damn, well, I got a space. And this is the height of music.” And that’s not throwing slight on anybody. At that time that’s just what it was. It’s dope to acknowledge people within your culture. But it has to be authentic. People have lost code and honor. And it’s all about popularity and keeping up and for cliques, and viewership. Even though this artist is so dope, are they going to get ratings? Don’t be afraid to be different. We create the cool.
Eve is out now on Jamla Records. Get it here.