What Does Hip-Hop Have To Do To Win An “Album Of The Year” Grammy? Music
It never fails. Every year, there remains a sort of naive hope, persistent even after decades of disappointment. You’d think we might have learned the lesson by now. Yet somehow, the idea that the Grammy Awards might buckle down and give a hip-hop project Album Of The Year remains a slim, albeit obtainable possibility. Even after history repeating itself time and time again. Bones are thrown and rappers are awarded trophies. Only never Album Of The Year. Not unless you’re OutKast, coming off the genre-bending back-to-back tandem of “Hey Ya” and “Roses.” As of now, OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is the most recent rap album to secure the honor. That was in 2004.
Don’t get it twisted. The Grammys love having rappers over. Taking pictures with them, breaking bread, even marveling as they take the stage. But when it comes down to doling out the night’s biggest honor, it’s never quite time to make the commitment. The hesitence is not entirely surprising. Many “neutral” platforms have long been wary to give hip-hop its due course. Publications like our own, Complex, and Pitchfork, take pleasure in highlighting hip-hop music. We’re able to fill our own year-end list with hip-hop albums all worthy of placement on their own merit. Yet sadly, not everyone is willing to view hip-hop as “high art.” It’s one thing to admire the gloss of the culture. It’s another to truly commit to understanding the artform on a grassroots level.
The Grammy Voters have failed time and time again in giving hip-hop any semblance of critical respect. The “popularity contest” narrative feels like a safe bet in predicting a winner, but is it an accurate one? We’ve recently seen Arcade Fire take home the prize in 2012, prompting an actual (and admittedly ignorant) “who the fuck is Arcade Fire?” movement. Beck was going up against both Beyonce and Ed Sheeran during his infamous 2015 victory, and while iconic in his own right, the former pair stand among the world’s biggest stars. Can anybody truly say Kacey Musgroves had a bigger year than Cardi B, Drake, or Post Malone? And let us not forget the elephant in the room. Hip-hop is, by and large, the most popular genre in the Western world.
Once again, the 2019 Grammy Awards found history repeating itself in a darkly comedic fashion. Despite nominations for Cardi B, Post Malone, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar by proxy, country sensation Kacey Musgraves took home the Album Of The Year honor. And thus, the cycle continues. Perhaps a pagan tradition prevents a rapper from claiming the prize; would they simply die on the spot, the product of an age-old curse? Artists and their chosen producers have long put forth compelling material that can rival the work of anyone. The idea that Supreme Clientele, The Blueprint, 2001, The Marshall Mathers LP, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Good Kid Maad City, and countless more were not, at the very least, in the conversation speaks to a myopic cultural understanding. Alarming, given the Grammys ostensible role as cultural validators.