Seven. Kendrick Lamar was nominated for seven Grammy awards this year. In the Grammy calendar year, he made what is undeniably the best, most complete album. good kid, m.A.A.d city is more than just an album—it is an experience—a neo-blues, hip-hop opera. Yet, at the end of the night, he came away with nothing; and it seemed like everywhere he turned, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were there snatching the awards he fought so hard for.
But it’s hard to hate Macklemore. Macklemore is a white rapper who addressed white privilege early in his career—something many white rappers have refused to acknowledge while laughing all the way to the bank—and continues to address it even on The Heist. He made an album without an A-list feature; instead, he asked his friends, Wanz, Ray Dalton, and Owuor Arunga, to feature on songs that would eventually become back-to-back number-one singles. He made his friends famous, how cool is that?
The Grammys have always been at least worthy of commentary on race relations and the politics of industry relationships; the Recording Academy’s voting body skews older and white. It would appear that the Grammys are more than willing to give out awards to musicians making black music, but not so willing to award black musicians. In walks Macklemore, a socio-politically-conscious rapper, but a white rapper nonetheless; this wouldn’t matter if history didn’t precede him. But the history is there.
To break this down simply for white readers: think about what it must be like to see people who look like you make incredible bodies of work, and yet consistently be denied accolades. What kind of message does that send and reinforce? Not having to think about this is the definition of white privilege.
Hip-hop is a culture that was born from marginalized Black and Hispanic communities, and rappers from those marginalized communities fought and protested for hip-hop awards to be included in the Grammys’ televised portion. There wasn’t even a Grammy award for Best Rap Album until 1996. This is the lineage Kendrick, not Macklemore, descends from. Macklemore admitted via instagram that Kendrick’s album was better, but how much does that help quell the anger of fans who have seen Black artists, and specifically hip-hop artists, snubbed one too many times?
But we’re not afraid to say it: Kendrick Lamar was snubbed in the Best Rap Album category. Macklemore made a great, energetic LP; Kendrick made a 21st century masterpiece.
Let us know your thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy snub in the comments.