Op-Ed: Where Were the Rap Awards During the Grammys?

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Op-Ed: Where Were the Rap Awards During the Grammys?

While Jay Z accepted his trophy for best rap/sung collaboration
at the 2014 Grammy Awards, no rap prizes were handed out during this
year’s telecast.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Sunday’s Grammy Awards
reiterated the traditions that accompany celebrating “Music’s Biggest
Night”: a union of industry veterans and newcomers, the world’s most
enviable talent roster and a swath of awards recognizing artists from
music’s biggest genres.

Except rap.

Grammys 2015

For the third time in the past four years, the Recording Academy
declined to present a single rap award during the ceremony’s live
telecast. Pop, rock, country and R&B categories regularly receive
airtime for at least one of their genre’s prizes, but the rap awards are
routinely relegated to the pre-telecast ceremony,
removed from the eyes of all but the most diligent Grammy enthusiasts.
The disparity increases when rap’s misfortunes are compared directly
with the prestige given the pop field. Four of the last five ceremonies
have included two televised pop awards, and last year’s ceremony
squeezed in a third.­ (A representative for the Recording Academy could
not be reached by press time to explain rap’s awards absence from the
main telecast.)

With more than 70 categories, it’s foolish to expect every award to
be presented on-air, but the Recording Academy’s prioritization of
certain categories as worthy of coveted airtime suggests to all viewers
— both industry watchers and casual fans alike — that these awards are
simply more important. Even if the ceremony’s endless runtime is the
suspected culprit, can’t the Recording Academy substitute one of its
multiple pop prizes for a rap award? As host LL Cool J
noted during his opening monologue, Sunday’s ceremony showcased 23
performances but sprinkled a mere nine awards among them. When the full
award ritual — reading of the nominees, winner announcement and
acceptance speech — clocks in at barely half the length of a
performance, is it too much for the Academy to carve a spare two minutes
out of three-and-a-half hours to recognize one of the dominant genres
of music today?

Grammys 2015: The Awards You Didn’t See

Unlike most genres in the pre-show telecast, concern surrounding
viewer interest hardly applies to the rap awards. The categories boast
several of today’s most popular (and best-selling) acts. In the past few
years alone, Eminem, Kanye West, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and Jay Z have graced voters’ ballots but rarely received their trophy in front of the camera.

This is hardly the first discord between the Grammys and rap music.
When best rap performance was introduced for the 1989 ceremony, nominees
Heavy D, Salt-N-Pepa and eventual winners DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
boycotted the awards after learning the rap category would be
(surprise!) untelevised. Yet, the also-new best hard rock/metal
performance category secured a place in the lineup. Within the past
decade, however, the rap field earned consistent on-air status. Of the
seven ceremonies between 2005 and 2011, six featured an on-air rap award
presentation, with the sole exception — 2007 — remedied by giving two
awards the following year. The sudden break from this pattern reads as a
bizarre change, especially as no other key genre has experienced a
similar decline in fortune.

Grammys 2015: 50 Things You Didn’t See on TV

In the past four years, at least one act who triumphed in the pop
field duplicated that success in the general field that contains the
night’s biggest prizes: album of the year, record of the year, song of
the year and best new artist. As Sam Smith
discovered Sunday night, the likelihood of these repeats suggests that
pop category winners will arrive onstage at some point in the ceremony.
For their rap counterparts, however, the prospect of multiple trips to
the podium is incredibly slim. As West has decried over the past decade, rap artists rarely land in the winner’s circle for the biggest prizes of the night. (Besides Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ win for best new artist last year, rap hasn’t scored a major award since Outkast‘s
album of the year victory in 2004.) As such, rappers whose sole chance
to cross the Grammy stage depends on a televised rap award find
themselves glued to their seats all evening as pop winners race back and
forth to collect awards.

And they’ll remain stuck in those seats until the Recording Academy
restores rap to its deserved place among the major genres of the current
era. In an era in which hip-hop is the most-discussed genre of the
most-discussed topic (music) on Twitter, rap albums consistently win
over both buyers and critics, and rap-sung collaborations have reigned
atop the singles charts for 40 percent of the past two years, excluding
it from the televised ceremony accentuates the irony that a leading
genre of our times has little reason to revel in what is continually
advertised as “Music’s Biggest Night.”

 | Billboard

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