On January 28th (J.Cole’s birthday) we will witness the 2018 Grammys. Of course most things nominated were released in 2017 and some even in 2016, but I suppose this is so everyone can have sufficient time to digest all the music nominated. However, this is one main issue many have with the Grammys; a multitude of well deserving music does not even get considered. But one must remember; the Grammys are the epitome of mainstream music. For more under the radar artists we have both the BET Hip Hop Awards and the BET Awards, the Soul Train Awards, the annual XXL Freshman Class, and even the American Music Awards. But, in all honesty, none of these carry the same weight as a Grammy. While you may think your favorite conscious rapper or indie-neo-soul-psych-rock-jazz band deserves the golden Gramophone, chances are the people who are picking the winners literally have never heard of them.
The Grammys, however, do a good job of having categories for multiple genres – even if the winners for some of these categories are not televised. Of course, one of the most sought after awards is Album of the year for the artist’s respective genre and of course the most coveted of all – Album of the Year overall. When it comes to the latter, however, no matter who wins there will be a large amount of dissatisfied people. But, the question remains – do the Grammys really matter?
Unlike many other things, our people have always been eligible for Grammys. Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie won the awards for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Performance by an Orchestra for Dancing and Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the very first Grammys in 1959, thus leading to wins by Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Kanye West and many more. Every time we win any Grammy it is worth celebrating among our people simply because we are often overlooked for a multitude of positive actions we do but the negative finds its way to the news daily. It shows the world that we can and do create audible art and do it just as well – if not better – than our white counterparts.
Also, it gives our music more exposure whether positive or negative. For instance, last year’s Golden Globes when Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) declared Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” “the greatest song ever.” And we all know what happened after that. Of course, this moment was not the Grammys, but would the song have been nominated for a Grammy this year had he not done that? *thinking emoji* The media loves to condemn most of our music for various reasons but once we win a Grammy for it they have but no choice but to say “Well, it must not be that bad if it can win a Grammy…”
It also allows artists we’ve been following for years get recognition from the masses – which may or not be wanted depending on who you ask and who the artist is. These artists are often placed in the “Best New Artist” category to which any long time fan will inform you: “They aren’t new.”
This is something that people may not think matters but they really do. When an artist gives this speech, of course we get to hear them thank God, their friends, manager, labelmates and of course fans. But some artists use this moment to inspire others and motivate them. The message of these speeches is usually, “If I can do this, you can do this,” but no matter how many times we hear that it will never get old. This message needs to be heard because “don’t nobody care about your SoundCloud link bro” is said far too often when the artist is actually worth it. Up and coming artists deal with discouragement quite a bit and while motivation from friends is wonderful, motivation from your favorite artist is even more impactful. People are quick to ignore up and coming artists but one must remember – you don’t just start out with thousands of fans and success. It has to be worked for and that journey takes time. Remember: Chance The Rapper is still technically a “SoundCloud Rapper.”
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) draws of the Grammys is the performances. You get to see your favorite artist perform their biggest song of the year (assuming you’ve already seen them do it several times throughout the year on other shows) and you get to see some collaborations you never thought you’d see and your mind ends up being blown. This is a great way for you to get into a new artist you may have previously slept on or not even heard of at all. These special collabs last for years due to the pure magic of their quality, and yes, I am going to get specific:
Eminem performs his best song ever (I didn’t stutter!) “Stan” with Elton John. Not only was this performance beautiful but it silenced anyone who thought Em “hated” gay people. People still talk about it to this day and for good reason as the emotion in the performance will never die.
Fast forward to 2014
Kendrick Lamar performs with Imagine Dragons in a mash up of each their biggest songs at the time. This is my favorite Grammys performance of all time as the energy was simply through the roof. The transitions between their respective songs (“M.A.A.D City” and “Radioactive”) was flawless – culminating in a new verse from Kendrick with the band going bananas over multiple drums as Kendrick spits his heart out.
Whether you like mainstream music, underground music, a bit of both or you literally only listen to local artists from your town – The Grammys are worth watching. While they may get things “wrong” sometimes (okay, multiple times) winning is still a statement to the music industry. You may find someone new to listen to or be inspired to get back into an artist you stopped listening to. Music is music and if you love it for the instruments, the artist’s lyrics or their mindset they share during an acceptance speech, there’s something for you to enjoy by watching the Grammys.