Last night, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were the clear victors over Kendrick Lamar. Both artists were nominated for seven Grammys, including four categories where they would be competing against each other. During a pre-televised portion of the show, the Seattle duo took home awards for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album. Their winning streak continued when they won Best New Artist, though neither won Album Of The Year as many fans predicted. Instead, the coveted gramophone went to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, supporting their impressive comeback.
Moments after the news broke that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis swept the Grammys—beating the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Jay Z as well as K.Dot—the majority of rappers and fans were outraged. You had veterans like Q-Tip tweeting about Kendrick, as well as guys like ScHoolboy Q and Fredo Santana ready to go to war if K.Dot didn’t win. Hours after the show ended, there are even more unanswered questions for diehards of the Compton rapper. Did he get snubbed? Did Mack win all those awards because he was the “safe” rapper? Was this a race issue? And if Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did get ousted from the rap categories—as someone close to the Grammys mentioned last week—would we be praising King Kendrick right now? It’s a lot to ponder.
In the aftermath, Kendrick walking away without a Grammy this year means the conversation has already started about him following the same fate as Nas, an iconic rapper who had multiple nominations and still has no Grammy. Though the comparison is way too early to call, it’s further evidence that getting the full respect of critics is an upward battle. You could blame the voting committee for their disconnect with today’s hip-hop, argue that mainstream hits count more than lyricism, or accept that the genre is evolving and progressing at a rapid pace. As the gap widens between “real rap” versus “hip-pop,” those distinctions are based solely on personal taste. It’s the reason why Macklemore has four Grammys under his belt to Kendrick’s zero.
Historically, the Grammys have been known to have a troubled relationship with hip-hop. At the 1996 Grammys, for example (the first to include the Best Rap Song category), Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” beat out Tupac and Biggie. The nod is respectable, but then you realize two icons in rap were denied what they rightfully deserved. And for argument’s sake, Jay Z wasn’t even nominated until his third album, Vol 2… Hard Knock Life, won Best Rap Album in 1999, and Snoop Dogg still doesn’t have a Grammy. With talks of his second album coming out by the end of the year, Kendrick is expected to push himself to his limits on his follow up to good kid, m.A.A.d city, and if he does he shouldn’t have a problem.
The funny thing is, Kendrick—who is largely viewed as a traditional hip-hop artist and praised by purists—believes opinions shouldn’t matter as long as you are passionate about your craft. “It’s other people’s opinions. Whatever he put his heart out to do, you know he raps and people receive it as that, it’s just opinions,” he told Sway of MTV News during a Red Carpet interview. Even Macklemore echoed similar sentiments after the show with his text message to Kendrick posted on his Instagram, saying he wanted Kendrick’s album to get the proper credit.
“He deserved best rap album,” Macklemore wrote alongside the text. “I’m honored and completely blown away to win anything, much less 4 Grammys. But in that category, he should have won IMO. And that’s taking nothing away from The Heist. Just giving GKMC it’s proper respect. With that being said, thank you to the fans. You’re the reason we were on that stage tonight. And to play ‘Same Love’ on that platform was a career highlight. The greatest honor of all. That’s what this is about. Progress and art. Thank you. #grammys.”
Both know each other’s work represent different spectrums of hip-hop. It’s how each should be celebrated in the culture that is entirely up for debate.
But as expected for people rooting for hip-hop’s newest Top Dawg, the uproar comes from him getting slept on by the Grammys. While investigating whether the Grammys actually matter for hip-hop is an entirely different conversation, they do hold clout in co-signing artistic talents. Kendrick is now considered a Grammy-nominated rapper—something Rick Ross definitely felt proud about when God Forgives, I Don’t was considered in 2013. Likewise, Macklemore’s career trajectory and accolades are awe-inspiring, from gracing our Freshman cover as an unknown talent to becoming one of the biggest stars in rap with an independent release. Salty fans will probably think Kendrick’s “screw job” was the Grammys trying to India Arie him, but musical bias shouldn’t cloud their judgment. Neither should the argument of race. Both helped change the landscape of hip-hop and it’s a moment to remember.
Kendrick left the Staples Center rocking the stage with Imagine Dragons, which was electrifying. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed “Same Love” with Madonna and Mary Lambert while Queen Latifah married 33 couples. Each artist was incredibly grateful and humble for even making it to music’s biggest night. Sometimes, it’s not always about grabbing the gold, but rather the smaller victories. Bitch, don’t kill their vibe. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)