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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

OPINION: The Academy needs to recognize Black artists


Rap and hip hop was created by DJ Kool Herc in the Bronx in 1973. Since then it has gone on to be one of the most popular and celebrated genres of music in the world. Beloved musicians like Drake, Jay-Z and Tupac have introduced more people to the genre. However, these genres, made up predominantly of Black artists, have struggled to gain any recognition from The Recording Academy.

The Grammy Awards finally recognized hip hop in 1989, 10 years after The Sugar Hill Gang released “Rappers Delight,”  which is widely considered the first nationwide rap song. 

The recognition wasn’t even televised, while nine country categories were televised that year. Big rap artists like LL Cool J, Will Smith and Salt-N-Pepa boycotted the awards for that reason. 

“We’re ecstatic they made a rap category, and we’re ecstatic we were nominated. But we think we deserve better than that,” said Will Smith.

This genre of music absolutely did and still does deserve better.  It took another 10 years after that for a solo rap album to win the coveted Album of the Year award. Lauryn Hill won in 1999 with her only solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

She is the only artist to ever win Album of the Year with a solo rap album. Only two other rap albums have ever won the award: a compilation album produced by Quincy Jones, “Back On The Block,” in 1991, and the rap duo Outkast won in 2004 with their album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”

Best Rap Album has been an award given out since 1996, but of the 28 winners only 15 have gone on to even be nominated for Album of the Year. The Grammys did not nominate “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” for Best Rap Album the year it won Album of the Year, meaning the Academy does not even consider it a rap album.

In 1994, popular rapper Nas released “Illmatic,” which is one of the greatest rap albums ever. At the 1995 Grammys, it was not even nominated. However, “The Three Tenors In Concert” was. This was an opera music album and was not even recorded in a studio. As the name suggests, it was a live recording of a concert the group performed in Los Angeles.

In the same vein, Kendrick Lamar has been nominated for Album of the Year four times and has won none of them despite the fact “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “To Pimp A Butterfly” are classics in the genre. “To Pimp A Butterfly” lost to “1989” by Taylor Swift, which in my opinion, is one of the most controversial Grammy decisions ever. 

From 2008 to 2021 not a single Black artist won the award until Jon Batiste won for his album “We Are” in 2022. Some notable albums that lost in that time frame are “Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean, the four aforementioned Kendrick Lamar albums, “Views” by Drake and “4:44” by Jay-Z, not to mention the many rap albums that were not even nominated.

Putting aside just the genre for a moment, since The Recording Academy’s inception in 1957, only 11 Black artists have ever won “Album of the Year.

This year SZA was nominated for Album of the Year with her album “SOS” and lost to Taylor Swift’s “Midnights.” 

On the same night, Jay-Z won the “Dr. Dre Global Impact Award,” in his speech he said, “We want y’all [The Grammys] to get it right, at least close to right, obviously it’s subjective because it’s music.”

He’s right, it is subjective, but there is a clear pattern that Black artists are consistently being overlooked at the awards ceremony. Like Jay-Z would go on to say in the speech, “She [Beyonce] has more Grammys than everyone, and has never won ‘Album of the Year.’ So even by your own metrics that doesn’t work.”     

In my opinion, it is imperative that The Academy respects the music that Black artists release. They need to do this by nominating more Black artists in categories besides rap and treating the rap category as one of the most popular genres that it is. 

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About the Contributor
Avery Martin, Staff Writer | he/him
Avery is a journalism major from Burlington, Vermont. He want to work in sports journalism after graduation. At Suffolk, he aims to be involved with the community and works with the Center for Community Engagement.

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