The Grammy’s recognize popularity, not prowess

Selena Gomez, Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift pose together at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

The Grammys have always been seen as this all-knowing music committee that is able to recognize truly unique and outstanding talent. However, why is it that they never truly award those who sincerely deserve it, especially if it’s in a genre that is generally frowned upon in White America?

The 58th Grammy Awards took place last Monday, and not shockingly, outrage shook the music industry, especially in the hip-hop community. Taylor Swift’s “1989” beat out Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” in the Album of the Year category. However, many feel as though Lamar was robbed of a category that was meant to be his, and they couldn’t be more right.

First off, Swift is an amazingly talented woman who has helped shape the music industry. She knows how to a write a hit single, as well as make a compelling body of work. Swift’s “1989” was a breath of fresh air, thanks to its luscious productions and catchy tunes. It’s light-hearted, fun, bright and a prime example of what pop albums should aspire to be. However, when compared to Lamar’s immaculate “To Pimp A Butterfly,” “1989” isn’t even in the same league.

The Grammy’s have never shown love for hip-hop. In its entire history, they have only given Album of the Year awards to a total of two hip-hop artists. Lauryn Hill won the award in 1999 for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” ,and Outkast in 2004 for “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” Why is that music’s most influential genre fails to receive the highest honor?

Hip-hop has always been synonymous with a wrong way of life. Conventional wisdom seems to dictate that hip-hop is all about drugs, money, the b*tches and the ho*s. Yes, some hip-hop artists thrive on that, but that’s not what hip-hop is. Hip-hop is universal, it’s transcendent and when at it’s full potential, it’s a way of spreading messages and emotion. Hip-hop is a way of showing one’s strife and hope, as well as spreading awareness of realities.  It’s music that can connect with listeners in a way no other genre can. That’s what Lamar’s album did.

Lamar’s album is a masterpiece and show’s what hip-hop can do when at its peak. “To Pimp A Butterfly” wasn’t an album chopped up of surefire number one singles. It was an album that documented the black experience in America. It showed the harsh injustices and struggles that African Americans face in their day-to-day lives. The album took inspiration from hip-hop roots, implementing jazz, funk and soul for an organic sound. Its lyrics are deep, meaningful, thought provoking. It’s a dark album for the dark times we currently live in. With topics of police brutality, black on black crime, poverty, etc. “To Pimp A Butterfly” is an album all about social issues. There are no club hits here, rather songs that make you realize the dire situations of others and make you think about the status quo.

When you compare a song like Swift’s “Shake It Off,” which is a poppy song about loving yourself and compare it to Lamar’s “The Blacker the Berry,” a song about black-on-black crime and addresses institutionalized stereotypes embedded within the Black community, it’s easy to see who truly had a more powerful song. Lamar’s “Alright” addresses the issue of police brutality and the senseless loss of lives. “N**ga, and we hate po-po/ Wanna kill us dead in the streets fo’ sho’/ N**ga, I’m at the preachers door,” he raps. With eye opening lyrics like that, it’s unbelievable that he didn’t win the most prestigious award.

Injustices such as this provoke the question: are the Grammys really a show that awards its most talented peers, or is it more of a popularity contest?