The Grammy hip-hop nods are a joke

Categories: Commentary

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Eric Gruneisen

That time again. The Grammy Awards have revealed this year's nominees. The picks couldn't be any less interesting, particularly the hip-hop nods. It's as if the committee picked artists that, together, would satisfy the broadest audience -- take the commercial hit of the year, the critical hit of the year, the one from the decorated veteran, the one from the polarizing iconoclast, the one from the dogged newcomer. This year's ballot reads not like a committee's selections for best album of the year, but like a choir of castrati singing the whims of their corporate, testicle-weilding sponsors.

See also: The ten best family-friendly rap albums

Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Yeezus and Nothing Was the Same are all sensible, if boring, selections for rap album of the year. But if Magna Carta, Holy Grail and The Heist are among this year's five best albums, then this has been a pretty lame year for hip-hop, which as we spelled out recently, is most certainly not the case. And the other categories? Mostly useless. More than two-thirds of the other nominations come from the nominated albums.

Come on, now. They can't all be that good.

Jay-Z's mediocre output this year has somehow earned him the most nods for any artist in any category. Frankly, that's insane. If an unknown artist had released Magna Carta, Holy Grail, not only would it not be nominated for nine Grammys, it would have been largely ignored by the media, certainly outside of rap circles. And therein lies the problem: The Grammys, at least for hip-hop, are less about being honored by a well-informed and decisive community than pouring gratuitous praise on an already heralded name, thus earning huge sums of money on the backs of, and in affront to, critics who stick out their necks to give honest opinions.

I vowed never to watch the Grammys again after Lil B was suspiciously removed after leading the vote-in ballot for a performance in last year's events. While this silly headline disappeared after floating through the media for a couple weeks, it reveals something truly ugly about the methodology of the awards: Before artistic or even populist integrity, the Grammys will select commercial viability every time.

In all likelihood, Kendrick or Kanye will win the award for best album, and it will be well-deserved. But any informed YouTube critic could make that selection, and they'd be able to give you good reasons, too, which begs the question: Why the hell do so many people watch this crap?

Is it the glitz and the glamour? The famous guests? The witty, but largely shallow banter? If so, certainly we could hold some other ceremony that celebrates the confederacy of celebrity dunces without sacrificing the purity of our country's most beloved artistic medium. Instead, in tradition, we get to hear one last time the same song that we've been hearing all year long.

So, once again, thanks, Grammys. Thanks for nothing.

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38 comments
Wiley G
Wiley G

Uh. Okay... Thanks professor.

Nicholas C. Naranjo
Nicholas C. Naranjo

And it goes to show I grew up listening to NWA 2Pac etc. I was born in 1982 so you can say I kinda grew up as hip hop grew up. There is a major difference as far as creativity and, again, meaning in today's crap they play and is considered popular. The stuff that was popular and mainstream from the 80s/90s actually had good content and well let's face it FAR MORE talent.

Nicholas C. Naranjo
Nicholas C. Naranjo

What you speak of is what they actually went through on a daily basis aka their struggles of their neighborhood. They of course used the art of storytelling. Which none of these mainstream rappers hold not one bit. Any real and good hip hop these days remains underground. Matter of fact they are better business oriented and steer clear of the big industry labels. These days it's best to distribute your own music rather than have it be chopped and puppeteer-ed by the industry. The mainstream "hip hop, I say that lightly because it's a joke, of today is all bubblegum and has no meaning.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

Frankly, from all the complaints I hear about today's popular music, it boils down to the same ole "kids these days" argument that has been the staple of previous generations. Just be honest with yourself, Nic. What you seem to define as "real" hip-hop is what was considered "gangsta" rap back in the late 80s/early 90s, courtesy of NWA, 2pac, Geto Boys (a shout out to our Southern fried bruthaz). Let's face it. Such music was aided and abetted (no pun intended) by society's and the media's infatuation with inner-city gang violence at the time (much of it largely exaggerated for ratings and profits) and as a result, record industry execs decided to capitalize on the what had been previously a strictly underground subgenre (that actually began on the east coast, no less). Had it not been for financial support from "The Man," highly-regarded figures in hip-hop like Ice T, NWA alums Dr Dre & Ice Cube, Jay Z, or even the late Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace would have NEVER achieved worldwide mainstream success that they ended up with. Instead, every single of them would have either been dead (well before achieving fame), in prison, or toiling in less-than-appealing occupations that too often becomes the norm for many "gangstas" that aspire to break out.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

"Most of the time people that deserve it aren't even mentioned." According to WHOM, exactly?

Nicholas C. Naranjo
Nicholas C. Naranjo

KRS-ONE said it best "Hip-Hop is something you live! Rap is something you do!"

Nicholas C. Naranjo
Nicholas C. Naranjo

First off I'm not a hip hop scholar. So don't sit there and say I am. I just know hip hop is a way of life. A way of storytelling. To me the definition is the way you live your life and having fun. Also gotta hold some intellectual meaning to your lyrics and are able to rip any beat up with pure knowledge and skill. Hell you don't even need a good beat to accomplish that feat. For me personally it's about the music and art of storytelling. I don't wanna hear how much money or possessions you have. I wanna hear about your struggles in which I can relate to. There are many definitions to hip hop and for me the grammys isn't one of them. Let alone the people that are nominated. None of the shit they play on radio hold any elements of hip hop and have no meaning.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

Well, perhaps it would aid you to actually learn that "rock" music is much more broader than the standard guitar/drum contingent that most people would think of when hearing the term.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

Define "hip hop." (And no, blindly linking to Wikipedia is not an acceptable response. I want to know YOUR scholarly opinion of the term.)

Wiley G
Wiley G

As are the nominees for the rock and roll hall of fame! LL Cool J?! C'mon!

Josh Nadler
Josh Nadler

Don't even get me started on the "dance" category.

Chad Nelan
Chad Nelan

The Grammys are a joke period. It's all mainstream crap that shouldn't be given anything let alone a Grammy nod. Most of the time people that deserve it aren't even mentioned.

Peter William Goodwin
Peter William Goodwin

But then again, Earl Sweatshirt should've been on the list. Fucking Macklmore and Kanye need to disappear.

Peter William Goodwin
Peter William Goodwin

Anybody who doesn't think Kendrick Lamar deserves an award for Good Kid, shod give it a few more listens.

Dominic Lopez
Dominic Lopez

these artist need to go back and find out what real hip hop is thank god eminem dropped an album to save the hip hop genra

Andrea Duran
Andrea Duran

"...The Heist are among this year's five best albums, then this has been a pretty lame year for hip-hop" ?????????????? Now that Macklemore is famous the hipster haters come out in full force. His album is amazing, not boring. Personally, I'm glad people took notice of him finally after years of making good music and I'm glad his music is mainstream. As a hipster critic you'd think one would realize this... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al6kYbTyPd8

David Dinsmore
David Dinsmore

Macklemore winning a hip hop Grammy is like Kenny g getting a jazz Grammy.

Kevin Disney
Kevin Disney

Total joke...every category...but then again...it always has been... It's just a bunch of musically clueless old men voting on whose got the most $$ and clout behind them... It's just a major label circle jerk...talent isn't even a consideration...

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

Hip Hop has always been a Joke since 2000

flashmobkyle
flashmobkyle

Kanye best album? That album is straight garbage. Holy Grail might not be the greatest, but it's certainly better than that Yeezus turd. 

Betsy Kay
Betsy Kay

seems pretty legit. i'd bump any of those dudes' albums.

Kemi Chavez
Kemi Chavez

Just as pointless as all of the Hollywood "award" shows.

Tyler Hawkins
Tyler Hawkins

Pretty Lights is nominated for a Grammy. lolololol

Ski Steve
Ski Steve

The Grammys are a joke. Fyp.

ThatUncutRaw
ThatUncutRaw

I too am from the early 80's (1983) and grew up on hip hop, but to say that the artists from the 80's/90's had "FAR MORE" talent, and to imply that the mainstream/popular songs from that period were more meaningful than the ones now, is both narrow-minded and incorrect.


With the explosion of the internet, it is now possible for anyone to release music, which definitely has led to a lot of terrible "artists". However, I definitely believe the best artists from this era could hang with the ones from the 80's/90's, and I imagine your favorite 80's/90's artists would be inclined to agree. If you can't see that, maybe you need to listen to more music. Peace.



Btw, to the writer of this article: IT'S THE GRAMMY'S, NOT THE MERCURY PRIZE.

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