Hip Hop & The Grammy’s: What Does That Relationship Say To Our Youth

A Grammy Award is the highest award a musical artist can achieve in their career. Awards are handed out in various categories including, my personal favorite, album packaging. The Grammy’s were first awarded in 1958 and included R&B and Jazz categories. Then, ‘Rap’ or ‘Hip Hop’ had not been coined and as we know barely existed until the seventies. Now let’s fast forward to 1988 Rap/Hip Hop is thriving and finding its way as a ‘Hip Hop generation’ had been born and are growing up with Rap being recognized as a clear genre of music invented by young people for young people and now they wanted to be recognized. So now we fast forward to the recently aired 56th Grammy Awards. History repeated itself as the R&B and the ‘Rap’ categories were either handed out during the untelevised pre-show or handed out to what most feel are undeserving artists. Rap to some is an African American folk art that gives a voice to our youth and those in our communities across the nation and beyond. Our youth who are enthralled in the music are looking for heroes as far as true musicianship and don’t have a clear view of what that actually means within a Hip Hop context.
Our youth need Rap/Hip Hop and other predominantly African American musical genres televised at all award shows. If Rappers deliver more respectable content then we can get the accolades and respect from the academy. We can even have a voice about the voting process. A lot of people who have a respectable opinion in the Rap/Hip Hop industry don’t take the time to be involved with the voting process. A young person may not understand the significance of seeing or not seeing black music artist being respected by their peers. Our youth need to understand what it means to be a respected musical professional. The relationship with the Grammys’ and Rap/Hip Hop differs in that other award shows are knowingly based on sales or actual voting by fans whereas the Grammy’s are supposed to represent more than that. Our youth watch the Grammy’s every year hoping their favorite Rapper will win but are exposed to more and more disappointment which could reduce a level of motivation and determination. Continuous disappointment in our youth diminishes dreams and aspirations which could result in risky behaviors. Music saves lives, creates jobs, and encourages critical thinking. Our youth are missing out on the positive accolades their role models are receiving and need to see those positive images where some have none. If African American youth are not exposed to artists that have a similar family backgrounds, lifestyles, and ancestry they may lose their interest in music all together. Our schools are already lacking the resources to maintain music in the school systems it would be a shame to lose something that is universally influential. The same goes for all ethnicities as our youth need to see a diverse musical culture because music genres represent the different cultures and ethnicities in some form or fashion.
Rap artists both male and female have boycotted the Grammy’s and other award shows in the past because of the voting process and the lack of respect for Rap/Hip Hop. Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and LL Cool J have boycotted the Grammy’s in the past. We are lucky if a Rap/Hip Hop artist is able to perform. Musical genres that are represented by predominantly African American artists are not entered into the Hall of Fame as frequently as our culture would like to see. Even in the 21st century artists such as Jay-Z have boycotted various award shows standing up for our right to be recognized and give hope to our young people. At the 1991 Grammy’s Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power” lost to Young MC’s “Bust A Move”. Rap/Hip Hop has made great strides when Lauryn Hill won 5 Grammy’s including the top award ‘Album of the Year’ which is a feat for any Rap artist let alone a female Rap artist. Then again when Outkast won the award for their album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” in 2003. The Grammy’s are supposed to be awarded to the artist who has an all-around quality project with quality content but since the inception of the first Rap category in 1988 Rap and the Grammy’s have had a tumultuous relationship. Awarding the coveted gramophone (Grammy) award to those who seem to have the most radio play or as it’s known in Rap circles: commercialism is a capitalist decision. Commercial Rap/Hip Hop artist usually don’t have any political or social-economic content. Commercial music in any genre always gets the most radio play or makes the label, not the artist, the most money. Producer/Rapper Kanye West has won twenty-one awards from fifty-three nominations. He is ranked 8th in the Grammy Award records for most Grammy wins and 6th for most won by a male artist. He also has the 5th most Grammy nominations. This is giving our youth the impression that no matter how hard they work they may never be positively recognized by their peers or even put forth a positive work ethic on a project. If the relationship between Rap/Hip Hop and other black musical art forms at the Grammy’s continues down the current path the genre could be ‘taken over’ by those who are not in the African American community thus taking away the voice of our youth. This relationship between the Grammy’s and Rap is based on a lack of respect for the genre, the youth, and African Americans. American culture is deep rooted in racism and the music developed by African Americans continues to see the inequality at a lot of award shows not just the Grammy’s. Rap wasn’t even considered a genre of music in its early years and some have even said that Jazz and Blues were ‘stolen’ from African Americans and adopted by Caucasians putting themselves in the forefront of the genre and not recognizing the African-American founders and artists within each respective genre. Some say that if Rap/Hip Hop doesn’t change then that too will be stolen.