The Grammys Take Steps to Mend Strained Relations with Hip-Hop Fans
Rap features prominently in next year's lineup, but reactions are mixed.
Historically, the Grammy Awards haven't been kind to hip-hop artists or their music. The rap portion of the awards isn't always televised, and the genre itself wasn't included in Grammy nomination categories until 1988. Snubs feature prominently in the history of the Grammys' and rap's relationship. This could change with the 2016 Grammy Awards, though.
The nominations, which were announced Monday, ignited the Web and generated polarizing reactions from around the country. Surprise nominations and snubs fueled much of the social Web's discourse on the awards. Much of this discussion centered on acclaimed hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, a rapper who joined a long list of famously snubbed artists by the Grammy committee during the 2014 awards. This year, however, the Compton emcee dominates with 11 nominations, including the coveted Album of the Year and Song of the Year awards.
While the sheer quantity of nominations is certainly positive for Lamar, the fact that his music, and that of many other hip-hop artists, features so prominently in the Grammys' cross-genre categories seems to indicate a shift in the 57-year-old organization's marketing; a shift that many younger listeners feel has been long in coming.
Hip-hop music has been increasing in popularity for many years now. Rap albums shattered Spotify streaming records this year, and recently revealed Spotify streaming data suggests that rap ranks among the most popular music genres worldwide. Much of the viral material of 2015—the second Million Man March, Canadian artist Drake's feud with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, “Hotline Bling,” Straight Outta Compton and its associated meme, everything to do with Kanye West—formed and flowed from the hip-hop community.
Still, the Grammys remain one of the few areas of entertainment where a perception of anti-rap persists, however earned. Time will tell whether this level of inclusion will mend the strained relationship between hip-hop fans and the Grammys, though early reactions on social media don't seem promising. In any case, it's difficult to ignore or deplore the Grammys for attempting to close the rift between itself and the hordes of millennial music fans who have written the awards off.