Kendrick’s 11 Nominations are Cool, but the Grammy’s are Still Irrelevant


We made it! We complained about Grammy nominations last year, about the winners the year before, now we’re treated to Kendrick Lamar leading all in terms of nominations with 11 for 2016!

Props to K Dot.

Still, while the the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences may have gotten something right this time(more on whether they did or didn’t on our Podcast), it doesn’t take away from past mistakes, current mistakes, or the obvious flaws in their process.

Who’s Responsible for This?


To understand why the Academy operates in the manner it does you first have to know who exactly the Academy is. The current President of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is Neil Portnow, former Vice-President of the West Coast division of Jive Records. While exactly which artists Portnow assisted at Jive is unknown, I do know he was an exec at a major label. I also remember that Pusha T line from “Mr. Me Too.” If you search through the lists of Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Governors, and other appointed members of the various chapters nationwide, you may see a MC Lyte here, a Malik Yusef there, but to say the Academy lacks diversity is putting it lightly. Lacking diversity is a problem, but for an Academy that’s supposed to make major decisions in regards to modern music, it’s an even bigger issue. The majority of the awards given away at the Grammy’s are either for Black music, appropriated Black music, or in the case of pop music, music highly based off Black music of 15-20 years ago. With this in mind, how can the majority of those in places to make judgement of the music be either former major record label execs (who happen to be white), old white pianists, or country singers? Seriously, when a decision has to be made in regards to what the Academy itself would deem “urban” music, how much do you trust the opinion of Michael Romanowski?

To take it a step further; why are former major label execs involved in the Academy? Being involved in the business of music doesn’t give you credibility in terms of judging the art of music. Someone involved in the business of music may have a bias idea of what quality is. If we’re talking quality rap music in what was a great year, 2015, Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late can’t be taken seriously as a top 10 album, let alone one of the 5 best albums of the year. If this were say, the Billboard Awards, where sales mattered, it’d be understandable. However, when you market your awards as “the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position” that nomination is unacceptable. If an artist like Big Sean can’t get his album Dark Sky Paradise nominated for rap album of the year over names like Kendrick, J.Cole, Dr. Dre, Drake, and Nicki Minaj, imagine the uphill battle faced by the average independent artist. Imagine what it’s like for an independent artist who doesn’t have major label distribution and is highly favored by the mainstream for personal reasons.

The Answer

So how do we fix the Grammy’s? The answer is obvious…we don’t. It’s no coincidence or accident that the Recording Academy operates in the manner it operates. The Grammy’s are over 50 years old, and for more than 50 years they’ve been working to improve them so that they better serve their intended purpose. Based on the Academy’s structure and history, that purpose can’t be to determine musical excellence. If music is heavily influenced and shaped by black people, but the Grammy’s, the supposed grand prize for musical excellence, aren’t; then the Grammy’s are logically invalid.

Even if Kendrick won all eleven awards he’s nominated for, how valuable are they based on where they came from and the history of the Grammy’s and their repeated fuck ups? Sure, To Pimp A Butterfly winning album of the year would be a good look for Kendrick within the music industry. Sales of the album would go up, and in the mainstream they’d have to acknowledge his spot in history…right next to the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. With that being said, To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t great because the people behind the Grammy’s deem it so, and if it didn’t win, that wouldn’t take away from it’s greatness. It’s a great album because it’s a great album, same as Doggystyle, Illmatic, and Reasonable Doubt, Grammy or not.

For a discussion on a Grammy alternative…check out our Podcast.

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