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Going into the 2020 iteration of the show, The Grammy Awards couldn’t be more irrelevant and in a place of struggling to attract younger viewers. Each year sets new lows in the coveted 18-49 demographic, and the show continues to take one step forward and ten steps back when it comes to its relationship with hip-hop. The step forward this year will be the confirmed tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle featuring Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, and YG. Fixing what was once the most cherished institution of the music business and one of the most-watched events of each year is complicated and will require drastic directional shifts and changes to elements of the show that have been part of its fabric for many years. These are the 10 problems with the Grammy Awards and how to fix them.
Sean "Diddy" Combs delivered a motivational speech as he accepted the Salute to Industry Icon Award at the 2020 Pre-Grammys Gala hosted by Clive Davis and the Recording Academy (Jan. 25). At the tail end of his time at the podium, Combs took a moment to bring to light an ongoing subject that could not be ignored: The Grammys' lack of respect for the genre of hip-hop and Black music as a whole.
"The last few days I’ve been conflicted," he started after thanking everyone in attendance at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. "I’m being honored by the industry that I love, the family that I love. But there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not just about the Grammys.
"There’s discrimination and injustice everywhere, at an all-time high. But there’s something I need to say to the Grammys [...] Every year, you all be killing us, man. Man, you talk about the pain. I’m speaking for all the artists here, the producers and the executives. The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it … and you just want an even playing field. In the great words of Erykah Badu, we are artists and we are sensitive about our shit. We are passionate. For most of us, this is all we’ve got. This is our only hope."
Combs went on to give The Recording Academy a deadline. “I’m officially starting the clock. Y'all got 365 days to get this sh*t together. We need transparency, we need diversity. They’re [The Academy] a non-profit organization that’s supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. But it’s going to take all of us to get this done. It’s going to take the artists and executives to recognize their power. So sign me up. I’m here to help make a difference and help us have a positive outcome."
After breaking down the impact and significance of hip-hop music and his mission of preserving black culture, Diddy went on to honor fellow artists who have been snubbed in prior years.
"And I want to dedicate this award to Michael Jackson for Off the Wall, Prince for 1999, Beyoncé for Lemonade, Missy Elliott for Da Real World, Snoop Dogg for Doggystyle, Kanye West for Graduation, aye yo, and Nas for Illmatic. Clive, I love you to death. I love you, I love you, I love you."
Prior to Diddy's 40-minute acceptance speech where he reflected on his 30+ career in the music industry and acknowledged those who had a hand in it, former Bad Boy artists Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, Lil Kim, and Mase took the stage to perform throwback hit songs from their respective careers. Combs' son, Christian aka King Combs, also joined the artists to perform "I'll Be Missing You" in remembrance of the Notorious B.I.G.
Watch and read Diddy's full acceptance speech below.
Now to my other family, my musical family. During the hardest year of my life [the death of longtime love Kim Porter], all of you were there to check on me and push me up. And I want to tell you I appreciate that. I love that. And I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t get those messages. I want to thank everybody here from the bottom of my heart that really cared about me. And we are a musical family. We have to be there for each other.
And now because we are a family, I have to be honest. [For] the last few days, I’ve been conflicted. I’m being honored by the industry that I love, the family that I love. But there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not just about the Grammys. There’s discrimination and injustice everywhere, at an all-time high. But there’s something I need to say to the Grammys. I changed my middle name to "Love." So it’s Sean “Love” Combs now. So I say this with love to the Grammys because you really need to know this.
Every year, you all be killing us, man. Man, you talk about the pain. I’m speaking for all the artists here, the producers and the executives. The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it … and you just want an even playing field. In the great words of Erykah Badu, we are artists and we are sensitive about our sh*t. We are passionate. For most of us, this is all we’ve got. This is our only hope.
Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now in this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing’s been going on. It’s not just going on in music. It’s going on in film, it's going on in sports and it's going on around the world. And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us. And that stops right now.
I’m officially starting the clock. You’ve got 365 days to get this shi* together. We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the changes that need to be made. They have to make the changes for us. They’re a non-profit organization that’s supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. That’s what it says on the mission statement. That’s the truth. They work for us.
We have the power. We decide what’s hot. If we don’t go, nobody goes. If we don’t support, nobody supports. We control what’s cool, we control what’s hot. We control what your kids listen to, what they dance to, we control what’s a video game, we control how they wear their pants, sag their pants…we control everything.
Now we’re not going to solve this tonight. But it’s going to take all of us to get this done. It’s going to take the artists and executives to recognize their power. And I’m standing here today not to just bash you all because as I said, you’re a non-profit organization. We just need to get it right. And I’m here for the artists.
So sign me up. I’m here to help make a difference and help us have a positive outcome. I believe all of my brothers and sisters out there will be willing to work on getting this right. Because we just want it right. We just want to be able to go to the Grammys. You’ve got to understand. We’ve seen Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson’s holding eight Grammys and he was dropping the Grammys. But you know why he was dropping the Grammys and why he got eight Grammys? Because they never nominated him for 'Off the Wall'! So Thriller was his revenge. It wasn’t his honest work. It was his revenge. He’s like, all right, you all want to f**k with me?! I’m going to take your souls. And then we had 'Thriller.'
My goal used to be about making hit records. Now it’s about ensuring that the culture moves forward. My culture. Our culture. The black culture. And for me to be worthy of receiving an icon award, I have to use my experience to help to make a change. And on that note, I’m finishing up: Y'all all got 365 days.
And I want to dedicate this award to Michael Jackson for 'Off the Wall', Prince for '1999,' Beyoncé for 'Lemonade,' Missy Elliott for 'The Real World,' Snoop Dogg for 'Doggystyle,' Kanye West for 'Graduation,' aye yo, and Nas for 'Illmatic.' Clive, I love you to death. I love you, I love you, I love you.
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While accepting the Industry Icon Award, Sean @diddy Combs called out the Recording Academy and urged artists to take back their power. “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys,” he said before dedicating his award to classic black albums that never won a Grammy. They include #Beyonce (Lemonade) @missymisdemeanorelliott (Da Real World) Nas (Illmatic) and @snoopdogg (Doggystyle). 🎥: @desire_renee
The start of a new decade inspired a change of plans for Billboard’s annual Power List. In previous years, the publication ranked 100 music industry professionals for their strides in the business by creating strategies that have propelled artists to the top of the charts and proved that the senior practices of the business can sometimes benefit from a fresh makeover. For 2020’s edition, the brand opted to not rank those chosen professionals but instead gathered and produced a list of honorees including Lyor Cohen (YouTube’s Global Head of Music), Roc Nation’s Jay-Z (Chairman), Desiree Perez (CEO), and Jay Brown (Vice Chairman) to Quality Control’s CEO Pierre “P” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee.
To a resounding applause inside the event’s NeueHouse location on a balmy Thursday evening (Jan. 23) in Los Angeles, Hannah Karp, Editorial Director of Billboard Media Group, explained the reason for the change and the company’s hope that next year will produce another list of futuristic innovators. “For one thing it’s always been hard to compare the power of executives in different sectors,” Karp said. “We also wanted to inspire a new generation of music business executives that honor leadership instead of just leverage.”
The first award of the night, which was named in honor of Jay Frank, a beloved music industry veteran who worked as senior vice president at Universal Music Group (UMG) before he passed away from cancer in 2019, was given to Mitchell Shymanskly, vice president of data and analytics at UMG, for his strides in digital music leadership.
“Jay was a visionary in our field, he saw things differently which is the true definition of an innovator,” he said. “He was looking constantly for an edge and it was a great privilege of mine to have the opportunity to work alongside him.” Shymanskly learned the mantra, “We don’t succeed alone.” That quote was echoed by Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who received the Breakthrough Award. He gave praise to his team for their work and success, especially after a year of witnessing Lil Nas X’s breakneck speed to pop stardom.
While future pioneers both in front and behind the mic filled the room, a living legend who helped shape some of music’s most fortified models also made a special guest appearance. The Clive Davis Visionary Award was presented to Atlantic Records’ Craig Kallman (CEO) and Julie Greenwald (COO) by the man himself, Clive Davis.
Greenwald shared the duo’s singular vision that allows Atlantic Records the ability to remain one of the music industry's pillars of success. “Build and maintain a music company that we love, we surrounded ourselves with an extraordinary team of people and then we signed artists that both Ahmet and Lyor would truly be proud of,” Greenwald said. For women in the music industry, being able to take that stage and receive these awards was a major feat for Jody Gerson, UMG’s CEO, who received the Executive of the Year award. The Executive of the Decade award was given to UMG's chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications,” she said. “I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive. It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits regardless of who you are or how you identify.”
Gerson also sits on the board of directors for She Is The Music (SITM), a program that promotes inclusivity in the music industry. Gerson revealed that UMG will donate $50,000 to the organization, which aims to provide resources for gender diversity in songwriting, producing, executive positions and more. In 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study on the lack of women representation in the music sector. The research, which was published in 2018, concluded that for the year of 2017 out of 651 producers only two percent were women while men dominated at 98 percent. In the songwriting world, out of 2,767 credited songwriters, 12.3 percent were women while 87.7 percent were men.
Now, with new sights and plans set to change the makeup of the industry, Gerson reiterated that there's no better time than the present to implement new practices. “The moment of change is here.”