This year’s Grammy’s promised to be the most diverse Grammys ever! There was lots of great music this year from a wide slate of artists, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to break the Grammy’s long tradition of marginalizing people of color, particularly in the Hip Hop community. The night was looking good when Kendrick Lamar, current throne holder, kicked off the night with this en-fuego performance.
Not only was it dope, making raptastic mincemeat of Eminem’s much-heralded performance, but it was woker than Chris at the end of Get Out. Dave Chappelle even had to check in to let people know they were witnessing peak black excellence.
Hi, I’m Dave Chappelle and I just wanted to remind the audience, the only thing more frightening than watching a black being honest in America is being an honest black man in America.
And he would know–watch the Bird Revelation for Dave’s own brush with honesty.
And that was just the opening. The night closed with a planetary-sized sweep of top awards by Cardi B dance partner Bruno Mars. Top song, album, and record awards went to Mars along with a few others, netting him 6 total wins for the night.
Blacks. Check. Latinos. Check. Woman. Check. Bet the Recording Academy is feeling pretty good about itself right now. It checked all of the awards show boxes, right? Grammys are now officially Not Racist or Sexist!
Hold on, not so fast. We Saw Bey slaying with hubby Jay z. We saw SZA heating up the red carpet with her five nominations after a red hot year. We saw Cardi B and Rhianna backing up the boys that won. But no major Grammys were won by black women.
But hey, maybe that’s their fault for not being creative enough. Bey you slacker. Rhi you lackluster sad sack! recording Academy President Neil Portnow has this advice to you:
It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.
That’s right, if only Rhianna and SZA and Beyonce and Cardi and Remy worked from the heart, were more creative, really leaned in to the industry, then they could get awards like the boys do.
In the era of #MeToo, the Grammys continue to look as modern as the Macarena. Black women were shut out in all but the Gospel category (thanks, Tay), and women were largely absent from the winner’s circle. Portnow’s comments are out of step with what’s happening in our country, and amongst the music buying audience. It’s time for the music industry to catch up with the times.
While Hollywood applies itself to the task of moving beyond lip service to legal and cultural shifts towards equality, the music industry is lagging behind, stuck in patterns of pumping out patriarchy and normativity. Music audiences already have more choices than ever before to access artist both in and out of the mainstream. If the music industry hopes to hold on to Millenials and their younger siblings, they will need to open up to be more inclusive. I’m sure they will have their own tidal wave of sexual assault allegations, and the industry is still a long way from being racially conscious, but beginning to recognize and promote the amazing talent of black women is a good first step. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step–and a great playlist