When Macklemore scored four Grammy Awards on Sunday while Kendrick Lamar went home empty-handed, it nearly sparked another L.A. Riot. As the debris settles, VIBE dissects the fallout of Mack’s big wins and K. Dot’s predictable pistol-whipping (a.k.a. getting hit with the snub)
1. Let’s just get this out of the way: Kendrick Lamar recorded the hip-hop album of this generation. Helen Keller could hear that. 2. good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a pillar of 20th century rap excellence. It’s the reason critics were salivating over it and penning 6,000-word think pieces contextualizing it in the tradition of the Black blues narrative. Because ultimately, it’s the press and the fans (not mutually exclusive) who serve as the historians that champion the works that will be remembered and studied for generations to come—regardless of what the bozos at the Academy decide. 3. All that to say: Were you really surprised at the Best Rap Album snub? Especially after that laughable news report about Macklemore almost being excluded from the rap categories. (More on this later.) The NARS damn near always gets it wrong when it comes to Black music categories. 4. But they never fail to capitalize on popular Black artists who bring in their own fans to engage in the big show. Black artists seldom win in the Big Four major categories, yet the Grammys ride them like Seabiscuit for credibility. Last year Kanye revealed an interesting factoid: Of his 21 Grammy wins, he’s never beat out a white artist for a gramophone. (No surprise he’d catch onto this.) Meanwhile, Kendrick can score seven nominations and put on the most electrifying performance of the night, but he can’t get no trophies? FOH fam. We ain’t trying to ride the Titanic as the house band—we need that “King of the World” balcony scene swag. 5. And this is why we need to support our own award shows. The BETs and Soul Trains. Because at the end of the day ::Cam’ron voice:: that’s the only way our art is going to receive its proper praise. Not to say that we always get it right, but our shows’ barometers are way more on point than the Grammy Family geezers’. Fuck yo’ awards like Eddie Murphy’s couch. 6. Speaking of which, don’t you miss the The Source and VIBE award shows?
7. Back to Macklemore. To say this guy isn’t hip-hop is just absurd. He’s an indie artist who started from the bottom of a bleak backpack rap scene, like an Irish, new millennium Master P slinging CDs out of his trunk. Talib Kweli and Big K.R.I.T. were openers on his tour. Corny or not, he bucks back at the powers that be, whether ideological (homophobia) or consumerism (see: “Wing$” “Thrift Shop”). And he raps. So what he’s from Seattle and his hair sucks. Dude belongs in the rap categories. Hip-hop can be pop(ular). 8. As much as any snub of Kendrick’s masterpiece would sting, how much of the ire directed at Macklemore is the cause of him making his way into hip-pop without being ushered in by an already established Black rap figure? Eminem seems as aware—if not as vocal—of the impact that white privilege has had on his career trajectory. But has being Dr. Dre’s plus-one (aside from being one of the best lyrical talents of his time) helped that transition to hip-hop icon be much less awkward than Macklemore’s ascent? 9. About that text message. When will Mack come to terms with his white guilt? It’s a cross to bear for any white artist emerging via a Black art form. And Macklemore usually seems to be very aware and articulate about it. But why post that text message Instagram? Is the message what is important, or the fact that those sentiments were texted to K Dot? It was awkward and seemed self-serving—Macklemore has already echoed the same sentiments to The Source pre-victory and had a platform to say the same at the podium. He could’ve even tweeted that he felt his award was undeserved after winning. But by publicizing it on IG, by saying “I robbed you,” it was just weird and uncomfortable. You must exhibit some chill, bro. 10. What if a snub of this magnitude happened in a traditionally non-Black category, like country? Would a text message apology be appropriate? After winning Best Country Solo Performance, did Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish send Blake Shelton a text saying “My bad, dawg. It’s weird, because, you know, I’m Black and all and I robbed you out of a Country Music award. Oops?” 11. Now for the other guys: How does Drake feel about being bested by Macklemore? Or Kanye? Did he text them, too? Should they feel some type of way? (Yes.) Although “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” make me want to stuff my earlobes with tissue paper, overall The Heist is a good album. It ain’t better than Yeezus or Nothing Was the Same, though. I’d bet my tax return that had Kanye been in the building, he would’ve bumrushed the stage on some, “I’mma let you finish” shit.
12. Where does Macklemore go from here? Sure he has his share of hip-hop buddies who vouch for him. But in besting rap’s golden child, and, in essence, becoming the face of hip-hop to a lot of Middle Americans who know no better, does he become ostracized as hip-hop’s new dark horse trespasser? And how does this affect his music, if at all? (Please don’t record an apology record, sir.) 13. Is the Grammy Academy doing anything to remedy its credibility problem? Back in 2011, after Justin Bieber and Drake were snubbed by Esperanza Spalding (love her) for Best New Artist, Steve Stoute wrote an open letter published in the The New York Times basically airing out the Grammys: “Where I think that the Grammys fail stems from two key sources: (1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic.” And while the President/CEO of Recording Academy Neil Portnow has responded by meeting with Stoute and others to “come together in a collaborative manner to discuss how The Recording Academy can continue to evolve in an ever-changing cultural environment,” what have they really done? Will Black hip-hop artists ever get a fair share at the Grammys? —John Kennedy