The Grammys: Illusion of Inclusion. Are We Stuck in La-La Land?

Written by: Cameron Tendaji | @illumindaj
Music Editor, COSIGN Magazine

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The nominations for the Grammys were announced last week, as we all anxiously waited like children on the night before Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of talent represented through all categories. The ceremony has come a long way from not even airing prominent “ethnic” categories such as “Best Rap Album”, to recognizing North Carolina FEMALE rappers like Rhapsody. Never heard of her? Well before you check out her newest Grammy-nominated project Lalia’s Wisdom, be sure to vibe out to her previous piece of work Beauty and the Beast which is an oldie but goodie to say the least. You may remember her from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly on the song called “Complexion”. When you’ve been handpicked by Kendrick to be the only feature on his album that has to mean something right?

Obtaining a Grammy is a monumental achievement in the music industry because ideally, it is supposed to award artists who have ascended into the stratosphere and cements their music as the gold standard. It serves as publicity by giving lesser known artists recognition and exposure to a wider audience. The Grammys fundamentally get to define what “good music” is, and this is where the problem lies. Historically, the awards ceremony has not been so kind to black artists. In fact, during the 55 years of broadcasting, only an astounding 9 black artists have won “Album Of the Year”. The brilliant Herbie Hancock (who I look up to, and someday hope to play half as well as he does) won in 2008 beating out Amy Winehouse. Is this because of discrimination? Is this because our music isn’t up to par with our non-ethnic counterparts? Many would make that argument. This is not to say that we do not win Grammys at all. For example, Jay-Z has won 17 Grammys and Kanye West has respectively received 21; however, the majority of these wins fall into (for lack of a better term, and because I hate using the word ethnic) Black categories. Even when we win “Best Rap Album”, or “Best R&B Album” we are overshadowed by the “more significant categories” such as “Album of the Year” or “Song of The Year”. It’s as if we are completely “Moonlight”-ed as these wins keep us in La-La Land (shout out to Jay-Z) for they are illusions of inclusion.

If we look back at the previous wins for Album Of The Year: in 2014 Daft Punk beat out Kendrick Lamar, in 2015 Beck beat out Beyoncé, in 2016 Kendrick was beaten once again but this time by Taylor Swift, and in 2017 Adele beat out Beyoncé and even Adele was outraged. And don’t even get me started on Macklemore beating Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album. What a tragic day that was. Which provides further proof how America samples black culture when its convenient like it was served to them on a tray at Sam’s Club while shutting us out at the same time (“Moonlight’’-ed). Which begs the question, how much power do we give those attempting to determine our worth? Not just in music but in everyday life?

Am I saying that we shouldn’t be watching the Grammys? Of course not! I’ll most definitely be tuned in. What I am saying, is that too often we give outsiders too much power in defining our worth just for a feeling of inclusion. But we’ve historically been stuck in La-La land for decades since The Reconstruction era (but that is a topic for a different time). Now in present day, these nominations are a historical leap in the right direction. Thank you online voting and good-bye paper voting ballots. The nomination process changed completely back in June with astonishing results. The people have spoken! A Spanish spoken song is nominated for Record of the year and black artists have broken the glass ceiling as they are evenly spread throughout all categories. In other words, the Grammys are BLACKITY BLACK and I am completely here for it! I am particularly curious to who will take home “Record of the Year” because BOTH Jay-Z and Kendrick are PAST Due. Donald Glover has had an amazing few years winning just about every award you can think of, and yes Bruno Mars in my mind is black so I’ll be satisfied either way. I for one, applaud the Grammys for giving artists who often feel voiceless an opportunity to be recognized. We are a diverse society and we deserve to see people that look like us represented in all aspects of life.

What do you think? Am I spot on, or Too Deep for the Intro?

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