The Disconnect Between The Grammy’s And Hip-Hop: Macklemore Cleans Up Awards, Kendrick Steals The Show

Posted: January 27, 2014 by ericbernsen in Features, Music, News, Songs/Videos
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The Grammy’s and hip-hop have had a longstanding, disagreeable relationship that was fueled with even more controversy after this year’s award show. Ever since the inclusion of the hip-hop genre, the Grammy committee has been unequipped to judge rap music as an art form. This can be proven by the fact that legendary emcees/rap groups such as Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, and Ice Cube have never been chosen as winners. That is quite a stacked list and all of those artists are similar in the fact that much of their music was rebellious, touching on topics that those in higher societal positions would rather avoid. Jump-start to 2014 and the stigma against high quality rap music still remains. The Seattle hip-hop group of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have blown up on the national scene in the past two years with their album The Heist cultivating numerous radio-friendly singles such as ‘Thrift Shop’ and ‘Same Love’. Meanwhile, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar also rose to prominence after the release of his critically-acclaimed “insta-classic” concept-driven album good kid, m.A.A.d city as well as his widely-covered “Control” and BET cypher verses. But by the end of Grammy night, “King Kendrick” was left empty-handed and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis landed wins in four of the seven major categories they were nominated in, as well as three rap awards that were not televised. To put it mildly, many in the hip-hop community were outraged at these results, and it is another example of the Grammy’s slighting the genre to the point that it makes it hard for any hip-hop enthusiast to take its judgment seriously. 

While Macklemore deserves to be credited for his accomplishments as an independent artist, it is a travesty that Kendrick did not receive any kind of recognition for his masterful work on good kid, m.A.A.d city. Kendrick’s album was a story about a young man from Compton that detailed his trials and tribulations, a body of work abundant in substance yet also appealing to a more general audience. Projects like these are a rare commodity in hip-hop nowadays, and Kendrick’s success proved that even in this materialistic, trend-obsessed era, there is still room for lyricism and consciousness to thrive on the mainstream level. Macklemore made similar strides that were brought to life at the Grammy’s, with the gay-rights focused song “Same Love” being performed live alongside icons Madonna and Queen Latifah while 33 couples exchanged wedding rings/vows. While this was an emotional high point during the show, the question that remained amongst diehard rap fans is if Macklemore represents “hip-hop”? Would the pioneers of the genre be proud that a white duo from Seattle won awards over the California prodigy who has been ‘passed the torch’ by legends like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg? It is tough to say, but what was made clear last night through Kendrick’s live performance with Imagine Dragons was that he doesn’t need the acknowledgement or stamp of approval of an out-of-touch Grammy committee; he has been crowned the king of the new school of rappers and is certainly fitting of the title.

When it was first announced that Kendrick and Imagine Dragons were performing a remix of ‘m.A.A.d city’ and ‘Radioactive’ respectively, many were not sure what to expect. However, the performance stole the show and the passion on display from Kendrick Lamar left many hip-hop fans in awe. Not having heard a new solo verse from Kendrick in quite some, his add-on to ‘m.A.A.d city’ captivated the thirst of many fans in a truly electrifying performance. From the wild light show to Kendrick’s emphatic, fiery delivery on his last verse, it was a special moment for him as he triumphantly banged on the massive drums out of pure emotion at the end of song (perhaps driven by anger?). And although Macklemore went out of his way to publicly apologize (via taking a picture of his text on Instagram) to Kendrick for “robbing” him, Kendrick does not need to hear an apology. Macklemore’s only crime was creating genuine music that was ripe to be gobbled up by corporate interests and spit out to a welcoming audience.

People are even going as far as turning this into a race issue, posing questions such as if Macklemore was black would he have won all of those Grammy’s? Personally, I do not think so, but that is not the point of this debate. Macklemore being white as nothing to do with the fact that good kid, m.A.A.d city deserved the highest accolades possible in the world of music. Unfortunately, that platform is the Grammy’s and if Jay Z’s subtle jab at the meaning of the awards (calling the trophy a sippy cup for his daughter Blue Ivy) did not connect with you…think about it again. The Grammy’s need to exploit the popularity of hip-hop more than the genre needs them as a means of showcasing of its talent. The genuine fans and partakers of the hip-hop culture are fully aware that Kendrick Lamar made a better hip-hop album than Macklemore. And while it is a shame that rap’s future legend did not get honored on music’s most grandiose stage, it will only drive the hunger of Kendrick and motivate him to come out with another album that will take the world by storm.

You can watch/listen to Kendrick’s collaboration below as well as other Grammy performances from Macklemore, Daft Punk/Pharrell and more! I’ll leave you with a quote from metal singer Maynard James Keenan that may be extreme and generalizing, but I think it nicely sums up the Grammy’s, especially in regard to the Kendrick vs. Macklemore debate.

“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”







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