By Paul Cantor
Hip-hop has historically had a contentious relationship with The Grammys. Last night (February 13), things were no different. Jay-Z won three awards – Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group for “On To The Next One” (with Swizz Beats); Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Empire State of Mind” (with Alicia Keys) and Best Rap Song for “Empire State of Mind – while Eminem’s “Not Afraid” won in the Best Rap Solo Performance category and his Recovery LP picked up a trophy for Best Rap Album.
That these guys brought home Grammys is not surprising. They’re both icons in hip-hop and have won a mountain of awards between the two. They’re not without their Grammy issues though. Unlike Eminem who was in the building to accept one of his awards Hov was nowhere to be found leading to believe he dissed the Grammys yet again.
On “The Real Slim Shady,” Eminem famously quipped, “You think I give a damn about a Grammy?/ Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me.” And back in 2002, Jay-Z publicly boycotted the show. “I am boycotting the Grammys because too many major rap artists continue to be overlooked,” he said at the time. “Rappers deserve more attention from the Grammy committee and from the whole world. If it’s got a gun everybody knows about it; but if we go on a world tour, no one knows.” He said his beef with the Grammys started during a year when he felt DMX should have been nominated and he wasn’t.
That was hardly the only time the Grammy committee overlooked someone. Consider the curious case of 50 Cent. 50’s been nominated for 15 Grammys throughout his career. How many has he won? Just one. Last year he took home an award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group with Eminem and Dr. Dre for “Crack A Bottle.” He didn’t even attend the show. “Man, f–k the Grammys!” he said. “I couldn’t care less about the Grammy Awards. It’ll be the Beyonce and Taylor Swift show.” His troubles with the Grammys stem from the 2004 awards when he was shut out in every category, including Best New Artist. “I feel like I got jerked at the Grammys because I’m aggressive,” he told MuchMusic at the time. “I don’t understand how [Evanescence] get best new artist. I will never go back to the Grammy Awards ever in my career.”
But while 50’s boycott was for personal reasons, in 1991, when Public Enemy turned down their Grammy invite, it had more to do with the committee’s lack of respect for hip-hop at large. The group stood in solidarity with their label honcho, Def Jam’s Russell Simmons, who at the time remarked, “[it’s] the same old broken-record snub of inner-city contributions to the music industry.” This was largely because the Grammys didn’t air the presentation of hip-hop-related awards, instead opting to announce the winners prior to the telecast.
Russell and Public Enemy’s beef over not airing the hip-hop awards was a continuation of a boycott that started two years prior, in 1989. That year, rap and heavy metal got their own categories, but only the metal award was televised, and show producers said that with limited air time, viewers rather see George Michael over rap. The move was resented by the hip-hop community, and Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff lead the charge, joined by fellow nominees LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa. “If they don’t want us, we don’t want them,” said Salt-N-Pepa in a statement back then.
And then there are rappers who seemingly boycott each other. Like Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who back in 1998 walked on stage during Shawn Colvin’s Song of the Year acceptance speech and decried Diddy winning the award for Best Rap Album over Wu-Tang. “I went and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money, you know what I mean?” he said. “Cause I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best.”
Notable snubs last night were Guru, who was not mentioned in a tribute musician’s who’ve passed away in the past year, and Drake, who lost in the Best New Artist category to Esperanza Spalding.
Do you think Hip Hop was snubbed last night at the Grammys? Tweet to us at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below?