When I became an adult, I was surprised to realize award shows like the Grammys aren’t necessarily honoring the most talented singers, writers, and producers in the music industry. “Best” is a subjective term, I learned over time. And if the Recording Academy—the collection of musicians, producers, engineers, and other musical professionals who vote for the Grammys—isn’t diverse, how can we expect the nominees, and ultimately the winners, to reflect that as well? We can’t, and it’s a problem.
This isn’t a new issue, but there was added pressure on the Recording Academy ahead of this year’s Grammy Awards after the institution faced numerous accusations of racial bias—most prominently from The Weeknd. After the singer was noticeably snubbed from this year’s nominations, it led to increased scrutiny around the Grammys voting process and how it negatively impacts artists of color. The Weeknd even announced he’ll be boycotting the award show indefinitely because of it.
A lot of Black talent did receive nominations, including H.E.R, Megan Thee Stallion, Beyoncé, Roddy Ricch, and DaBaby. But getting a nomination isn’t the same as walking home with a trophy, and the Recording Academy has a history of overlooking rap and hip-hop music in the “big four” categories: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year.
Case in point: In 2017, Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost Album of the Year to Adele’s 25; even Adele didn’t think she deserved the honor. “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled, and I’m very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyoncé,” she said in her speech. “The Lemonade album was just so monumental.”
Nicki Minaj recently reminded fans of when she was snubbed at the 2012 Grammys. “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation,” she tweeted. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”
Drake pointed out the biased aspect of the show in his 2019 Grammys acceptance speech after receiving Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan. “We play an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said. “This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada might have to say or a fly Spanish girl from New York.”