Happy Black Music Month! A lot of the industry’s greatest sounds come from artists of color in the genres of jazz, rock & roll, soul, R&B, and, of course, rap. Black music goes beyond one genre and one sound, which makes Black Music Month and black music very special to me. However, this post will only talk about one genre and its view in the awards scene, which brings me to the topic:
More rap artists should become voting members of The Recording Academy® to have a better representation of rap at the GRAMMYs.
I know, I know. Some of you may think that The Recording Academy (TRA) is anti-rap and I can see why. Some of our favorite mainstream emcees have been nominated for these awards and only a few have won them over artists that we didn’t believe earned it. For example, we saw the Best Rap Album award go to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist, an award that many people thought Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city deserved to win back in 2014. We’ve also probably heard of the GRAMMYs not televising the Best Rap Performance category in its first appearance on the awards back in 1989, with artists that were nominated, such as the winners, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” boycotting the event. Many rap artists and listeners tend to discredit the GRAMMYs because of these issues and have done so for many years. However, I’d like to point out a few things about the Academy and the way that the GRAMMYs are set up in order to point out some possible reasons as to why our talented rap artists aren’t receiving awards:
- TRA is a membership organization, meaning that artists and music professionals (as well as aspiring ones that are in college) must apply for membership and pay dues to be active and involved in the organization. Dues range from $25 to $100 a year depending on what membership status a person is applying for. The highest membership price is for voting membership, which is only reserved for artists, songwriters, engineers, producers and the like who fit certain qualifications. These qualifications include, but are not limited to, being nominated within the last five years, releasing twelve songs with proven credit of being featured, or those who can be endorsed by two current voting members. The entire list of qualifications for student, associate and voting members are listed on the GrammyPro site.
- As a voting member, you can nominate your work and vote for potential nominees. Once the list of nominees are finalized, voting members can submit a final vote in up to 20 GRAMMY categories, including the main categories of Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. So, rap artists/music executives can vote on the four main categories, the four rap categories, and up to twelve other categories.
From observation, many artists that dislike the GRAMMYs aren’t aware of the voting process and that is most likely because they are not members of TRA. The two points mentioned show how relatively easy it is for our mainstream (and even some non-mainstream) rap artists and music professionals to become voting members. I can’t say that there is no “machine” behind the voting, other than the firm that tallies the voting. However, how can rap artists rightfully win awards when we do not have artists and other music professionals within the rap category that can and/or will vote?
As long as we have little to no representation for the rap category involved in the voting process, we will continue to see a misrepresentation of rap at the awards. We can’t say money is an issue because it’s inexpensive to join. The member qualifications are not that much of an issue once you read through them. My main concern is having voting members that do not vote and then complain about the negative results of the awards. Hopefully, everyone that can get involved will actually be involved and change the negative stigma of rap at the GRAMMYs.
If you can, get involved, and encourage others that can to do so too. There’s strength in big numbers.