The answer for the untelevised 2024 GRAMMYs Rap Award mirrors my view about politics
Make your ballot choices about politicians' key issues, not just political affiliation
I very rarely if ever watch the GRAMMYs. And I’m not saying this as a Jay Z or Will Smith viewer who claims to be boycotting the GRAMMYs while sneaking and viewing it. I don’t complain about the award show winners or losers. I have the same energy regarding the Oscars. I don’t feel the need to complain about awards for a show I have bare minimum interest in.
That’s not the case with all award shows. I was excited about “The Source Awards” in ‘94. But then the fighting in ‘95 and Tupac being crazy disrespectful to Tribe Called Quest soured me on that show. I still make “Black Girls Rock,” “The BET Soul Train Awards” and the “BET Awards” a priority. And you’ll never convince me there was a better performance than Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce splashing water at each other in 2016 while reciting “Freedom.”
“I Wanna Be Down” remix is a close second favorite from the BET Hip Hop Awards 2014.
But the GRAMMYs are just “Meh” to me. I’m rarely if ever excited to see anyone. I am not invested in the music of half the nominees. It’s why I almost skipped Trevor Noah’s “What Now?” episode about the behind-the-scenes activities while he was hosting. However, it’s Trevor Noah. I’m going to attempt to watch or listen to anything he releases to the public.
The highlight of the podcast episode wasn’t Trevor though; it was the final question from guest host Josh Johnson. At the 35-minute mark, he asked executive producer Ben Winston why the Rap Album of the Year wasn’t televised. (Black folks specifically know this is a point of contention in GRAMMYs history.)
As soon as Johnson asked that question, I rolled my eyes and pulled my phone out of my pocket to switch to another “What Now?” episode. But I couldn’t get my fingerprint recognition to work fast enough. I involuntarily listened to Winston speak, and then I put my phone back in my pocket. I wanted to hear the rest of this.
“So I have to choose which awards go in the show,” Winston explained. “We only have room for 10. There’s 93 GRAMMYs that are given out every year, and I basically choose 10 that I think they could make the show. And so, I always have the four: Best Record, Album, New Artist and Song. Those are, like, the big four. And then you do country, and then you do a Latin. That’s six. And then I did two pop ones, which you do Pop Album and Best Pop Solo Performance, which is quite common to do two pop ‘cause that’s where a lot of, like, the mega stars are.”
“Then usually it’s Rap Album,” he continued. “And I decided that I thought we should do an R&B Award because there was some amazing nominees in R&B. There was, like, Coco Jones. There was Victoria Monet. There was SZA. And I just thought that was a really good award. And then because of the Dre Award going to Jay Z, I felt like that was a big Rap one. And we also had two Rap performances in Travis Scott and 21 Savage and Burna Boy. And, last year, we did, like, 18 minutes of hip-hop plus that Hip Hop 50 tribute, which was, like, the show was dominated by it. And we had Jay Z ending it on “God Did,” so it just felt like actually it was nice to give R&B a bit of shine. That’s why. It was nothing more to it than that.”
I replayed his explanation and listened four more times. It’s really hard to disagree with anything giving R&B shine. Being completely honest, I have zero interest in seeing Travis Scott, 21 Savage or Burna Boy perform nor do I listen to their music. I would’ve preferred to watch “the sweep” speech with Killer Mike. But I’m not their target viewing audience.
In the past few days, I’ve heard more than enough complaining about why Killer Mike wasn’t televised and claiming his arrest was a GRAMMYs conspiracy. But not too many people were pointing out what did get shine. I must admit that Winston’s take isn’t a bad argument to make in 2024.
It would have been a terrible argument to make in 1989 when Will Smith won the first Rap GRAMMY award and R&B was flourishing. In 2024, I’m desperately trying to support R&B singers who can actually sing versus painfully annoying and off-key singing rappers. “R&B Money” podcast can’t save the genre by itself. If the GRAMMYs have to help, so be it.
Winston’s answer was oddly satisfying, especially for an award show I have only watched a handful of times. “Jaguar II” was a flawless album and Victoria Monet’s “On My Mama” is my ringtone, so I can’t even gripe about the winner. She deserved it.
The political connection I found in the GRAMMYs
Listening to Winston’s answer gave me deja vu from one election year. Politics aren’t nearly as fun nor as enticing as music. But politics affect my job, my home, my health and even my taxes in a way music can’t touch.
So what’s the connection between the two? My initial attitude toward a particular senatorial Republican candidate mirrored my attitude toward the executive producer discussing the GRAMMYs. I didn’t give a damn about what he had to say. Nothing was going to be a good answer. I was going to vote for the Democrat regardless. And then both parties started talking about their views on a specific topic, and I went, “Wait, what is happening here?”