The Spartan Spin

Why I Think The Grammy’s Got Rap Wrong

By Gunnar Gronski, Reporter

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Rap music has established a dominating presence in mainstream music. Rap songs continue to be within the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100. According to Nielsen Music, four of the top 10 best selling albums of 2017 were albums done by rap artists. Rap music even broke into the award scene, with two rap albums being nominated for the Album of the Year, and two rap songs being nominated for Song of the Year for this years 60th Annual Grammy Awards show.

Regardless of this attention, the Grammy’s still did not do rap justice. Although that is the argument, it was not surprising that the rap nominations did not get the awards for Album or Song of the Year. To me, it also was not surprising that Kendrick Lamar swept all awards for the Rap field. Yet, this is where the Grammy’s got rap wrong. In my opinion, 2017 was an excellent year for the genre; with excellent albums being released by artists Jay-Z, Rapsody, Big K.R.I.T., and even Tyler, The Creator – just to name a few.

If it were any other year, I would take no issue with Kendrick Lamar sweeping the rap categories. Lamar is one of the greatest rappers producing music right now, and his 2017 project “DAMN.” was no exception to the quality he creates. To the Grammy’s credit, “DAMN.” was without a doubt the biggest rap album to be released this past year, but when looking at the other nominees, it was far from the most unique. In fact, there was other music that was just better.

Alongside “DAMN”. on the nominee’s list sat Tyler, The Creator’s “Flower Boy”, and Jay-Z’s “4:44.” For each of those artists, the albums represented a coming-of-age and a maturing, respectively. Both projects gave listeners a new perspective on the artist that created the album: for Tyler, this was a giant leap from the status quo of rapping about questionable content for which he’s received so much criticism in the past.

There was just so much growth for Tyler on this album. Instead of gritty quick-paced beats, Tyler embraced sweeping orchestral instrumentals that make for an impressive listen. This sound is especially apparent on tracks “See You Again” and “Garden Shed.” For Jay-Z, “4:44” was an analysis of his personal life, stepping back from the “Hova” persona and addressing his familial issues. Many of the tracks contain lyrics that sound apologetic. For example, on the title track “4:44,” Jay-Z raps: “Took me to long for this song, I don’t deserve you,” speaking to his wife Beyonce. This sort of growth does not ever come from a 48-year old artist who has already produced 13 studio albums. Yet, we still saw it from Jay-Z.

Even if both of those albums nominated did not have the strong narrative and growth from both artists, each still had songs that were just plain enjoyable to listen to.

Another excellent album left with only a nomination was Rapsody’s “Laila’s Wisdom,” a project that came out of nowhere but left a huge impression. In an article from djbooth.net, rap legend Busta Rhymes is quoted as saying that Laila’s Wisdom was “The best album…from top to bottom in its entirety that I’ve probably [heard] in the last 10 years.”

When looking at the nominations, it seems as though the Grammy’s made the “safe” choice and gave Kendrick Lamar all the rap awards they could, leaving some truly talented work with nothing. Even Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” which spent three weeks at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, fell to Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” There just seems to be a discrepancy between when the Grammy’s treats rap like a popularity contest, and when they actually look at the quality of music produced.

However, it is important to remember that the Grammys are just an awards show – that is it. Regardless of the winners and losers, the music that you listen to and enjoy will still be enjoyable. For example, far and away my favorite rap album to come out of 2017 was Big K.R.I.T.’s double album “4eva Is A Mighty Long Time” and it was not even nominated for a Grammy. For any album or song or performance that doesn’t get awards, it does not take away from what it means to an individual.

 

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Why I Think The Grammy’s Got Rap Wrong