DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince Boycott 1989 Grammys with Fellow Rappers – Today in Hip-Hop
On this day, Feb. 22, in hip-hop history...
1989: On Feb. 22, 1989 Philadelphia hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince led rappers to boycott the 31st annual Grammy Awards.
Although Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff were the recipients of the first ever gramophone for Best Rap Performance, along with most of hip-hop’s elite they decided to skip the ceremony because the acknowledgement felt like a backhanded compliment to hip-hop. Yes, it was hip-hop’s first Grammy, but it wouldn’t be televised or part of the main event.
"Winning a Grammy shows you are at the pinnacle of your career," DJ Jazzy Jeff told BET. "So to be nominated was a great experience, but to realize that they weren't going to show the category on television was a slap in the face." The slap in the face led Smith and Jazzy to boycott the award ceremony, not knowing just how much the movement would affect hip-hop. "We didn't know what that was going to do for our career, but at that point, in that stage of hip hop, you had people saying that hip-hop is only going to be around for a certain amount of time,” DJ Jazzy Jeff said. To show their solidarity other MCs, including all the rap nominees, from that year also followed suit. “There was Heavy D, Salt-n-Pepa, Kool Moe Dee; they all boycotted with us,” Jazzy recalled. "It wasn’t just us, it was everyone that was kind of involved.” Instead the rhymers filmed an episode of Yo! MTV Raps.
The Recording Academy has long since had deep rooted issues acknowledging the influential force hip-hop has on the music industry. Rappers have continued to show their displeasure for the disrespect by simply not showing up, even if they are nominated and end up winning. When Eminem and Kendrick Lamar both won the now-extinct award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group—the category was abolished four years ago— neither attended to claim their prize. Jay Z has also had his own love/hate relationship with the Grammys since 1999.
Shout out to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for leading the movement and taking a stand for hip-hop.
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