Grammy Committee Listens to Hip-Hop Community’s Inclusion Concerns, Says Representative
Over the last few years, hip-hop has become the most streamed musical genre in the world, so naturally, fans and rappers alike have called for increased attention from national awards shows—specifically speaking, the Grammy Awards.
From the time the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff famously boycotted the 1989 Grammy Awards when they were nominated for Best Rap Performance to the time Jay-Z's 4:44 failed to receive a single win earlier this year at the 2018 Grammy Awards, the star-studded awards show has frequently drawn some ire from the hip-hop community. With the 2019 Grammy Awards nominees having just been announced today (Dec. 7), the conversation will almost inevitably shift towards this topic once again.
For his part, Bill Freimuth, who operates as the Recording Academy’s Head of Awards, says the awards committee does their due diligence. "We certainly have been listening to the community with these concerns," Freimuth tells XXL when asked about the rap world's inclusion concerns. "We've really done a lot of pro-active outreach to the hip-hop community over the last several years, really."
Freimuth, who helped institute the Nomination Review Committees for Rap in part to help independent rap artists a couple years ago, acknowledges the Recording Academy's efforts, but he notes that it's not an exact science. "The progress is incremental," he says. "It's not gonna be a complete, 100 percent, 180 degree turn around over night. But at the same time, more and more of the really important players in that community have started to embrace what we're doing and joining us as members, being part of our committees. Voting—which is extremely important, obviously, and I'd like to think our nominations are reflecting that more and more."
A cursory look at this year's Grammy noms gives weight to Freimuth's comments. For years, artists have complained about not being nominated for Rap Album of the Year. However this year, Drake (Scorpion), Post Malone (Beerbongs & Bentleys) and Cardi B (Invasion of Privacy) are all contenders for the coveted award. Meanwhile, the rap-heavy, Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther movie soundtrack is all also up for the award, meaning that half the nominees for Album of the Year belong to the world of hip-hop.
On the other hand, there are some curious omissions, namely Juice Wrld, the Chicago rapper whose breakout single "Lucid Dreams" and debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, have both lived in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200, respectively, for several months now. He wasn't nominated for a single award, including the coveted Best New Artist category.
"The difficulties that our voters have every year is that there are so many excellent recordings, and I think this year that number increased even more," Freimuth tells XXL when asked about Juice's exclusion from the Best New Artist category. "As always, we only have so many nominees in every category. So, you know, it's never easy to tell what's going to be nominated because we have got so many [voters] that are professional music creators, they're coming from all types of different genres and different disciplines and varied experiences."
Fans can see how hip-hop gets represented this year when the 2019 Grammy Awards air from L.A.'s Staples Center on Feb. 10, 2019.
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