Perhaps Kanye ain’t so “crazy” after all.
After all, it was Kanye West who interrupted Taylor Swift during the 2009 MTV Awards after she won “Video of the Year”––not simply because he’s a “douche,” but because West really believed that Beyoncé was robbed of an award she deserved.
The MTV Awards, like the Grammys, American Music Awards and pretty much any other “mainstream” (read White-dominated) music awards show, tends to give Black artists the ghettoized accolades—“urban” “R&B” and “hip-hop” awards (except when a White person is in that category—we see you, Macklemore), but never the “pop” awards––“Video of the Year” “Song of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” etc.
In fact, Beyoncé lost album of the year to Taylor Swift at the Grammys the year of the Kanye fiasco, even though her album had the juggernaut “Single Ladies” on it. ‘Yonce has lost album of the year three times—to Beck, Swift and Adele.
For the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, Beyoncé was nominated for a record nine Grammys on Sunday, but won only two (in the “urban contemporary” and “video” categories). #GrammysSoWhite began bubbling, much like #OscarsSoWhite, which called out the Academy Awards for its continued disrespect of Black actors, films and directors.
The cold part is that unlike film, Black people created and have dominated American music nearly since we’ve been here. Black Americans have a long rich tradition of entertainment here, even as slaves, even for White consumption. We all know that blues birthed rock; and that gospel, jazz, country, hip-hop, bluegrass and every other genre of American music can be traced directly to African-Americans.
But alas, White supremacy.
And now, many are saying they may boycott the awards show. West, and his frequent collaborator Frank Ocean, who released the seminal Blond album in 2016, boycotted this year’s awards. In fact, Ocean went so far as to withdraw his name from award consideration.
Ocean released a blog post calling his boycott his “Colin Kaepernick moment.” He called out the Recording Academy for what he said was a “cultural bias,” referring specifically to last year’s show, in which Taylor Swift’s 1989 won Album of the Year over the rapper Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Yes, this girl has won album of the year TWICE, over Beyoncé, and then Lamar.
Beyoncé has never won Album of the Year—neither has West—though the two have many Grammys between them. Only 10 Black artists have ever won Album of the Year, including Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill and Outkast. The last was Herbie Hancock for a collection of Joni Mitchell covers in 2008.
Though Beyoncé has 62 nominations and 22 wins overall, most have come in the designated R&B categories, with only one in the big three of Record, Song or Album of the Year. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” won Best Song in 2010.
Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s sister, tweeted a link to Ocean’s post after the awards show (since taken down).
Also, the top dog at Lamar’s label, Terrence Henderson of Top Dawg Entertainment, was on the same page: “Maybe Frank had a point,” he wrote on Twitter.
When it comes to music, “we got this”––and always have. Which is why the BET Awards––which the Grammys tried to bite off of this year—are always the best game in town. And which is why we need to continue to support our own.
And which is why if Black artists truly boycott the Grammys (imagine how dry the show would have been without Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and A Tribe Called Quest, or even Rihanna in the audience?)
It will effectively be the end of ratings, which means the end of the Grammys. Maybe that’s what it’s time for.