No other act received more criticism for their Grammy success then Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Ultimately, the rap community was pretty pissed off. After so many years of rap being under recognized by the Recording Academy, now an act grabs a victory in one of the coveted big four categories (Best New Artist) and the fans are not pleased. Why the wall of hatred for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis? Ultimately, it’s not so much about the Seattle MC or his producer pal; it’s more about the perception of rap by the Academy voters. With a golden opportunity before them to award the more representative MC of the genre, Kendrick Lamar, the voters decided to go the safe route and in the process further alienate both a genre and make many question the Academy’s credibility.
Face it folks, the Grammys have screwed up multiple times over the years – yes Milli Vanilli comes to mind. In recent times, since OutKast was somehow victorious for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it seems that the rap album can’t get a break. Every time a gargantuan hip-hop album has presented itself worthy for recognition, the Grammys seem to avoid it like the plague, often only giving it recognition in rap categories. This year, if you were to ask rap purists who should’ve cleaned up the hip-hop categories, the answer definitely would’ve been Kendrick Lamar. Macklemore wouldn’t cross their minds… at least as a ‘traditional’ rap artist.
The Rap Slight – 2005 – Present…
2014 – Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City (0 Grammys)
2011 – Eminem, Recovery
2009 – Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
2008 – Kanye West, Graduation
2006 – Kanye West, Late Registration
2005 – Kanye West, The College Dropout
Yes, there is another elephant in the room – Macklemore is white and many of the serious rappers are black. Yep, and some folks might be quick to play the reverse racism card here. However, Eminem is highly respected and he’s Caucasian. While Eminem is the best example of a breakthrough Caucasian rapper, he’s not the only white rapper who has received respect from the hip-hop community. Paul Wall certainly had a run when the H-Town movement came-up in the mid 00s. Yelawolf, though not a commercial success, has also proven the legitimacy of his chops as what’s perceived to be traditional rap. Cleveland’s MGK definitely has mad skills, and certainly has little that is pop about him. But does Macklemore truly match the aforementioned rappers? No, he’s certainly different comparatively.
Personally, I thought The Heist was a solid album; I gave it a favorable view. That said, the only time I felt it would receive Grammy attention was when “Thrift Shop”, “Can’t Hold Us”, and “Same Love” blew up in pop circles. Still, the three songs don’t align with my idea of hip-hop; they all feel more pop. Generally, so does The Heist, even when the beats go a bit harder. Particularly compared to Kendrick Lamar’s good Kid M.A.A.D City, The Heist just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. Sure, it’s not as extreme as potentially nominating a Black Eyed Peas album in hip-hop categories, but it still seems a stretch. I think this, more than the say ‘race’ that some may point to, make the win more painful to rap enthusiasts.
There are two more reasons for the post-Grammy backlash. The biggest and saltiest rub is that rap’s newly proclaimed savior, Kendrick Lamar, was snubbed. Even Macklemore agrees, and it’s not even his fault! The backlash from the Recording Academy’s out of touch voting actually took away from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis celebrating – which they should. Macklemore doesn’t need to apologize to Kendrick Lamar for winning, even if he does feel guilty. He won… live it up, M. But the Academy ignored Kendrick, arguably the freshest breakout voice in rap in years. But unless one really studies and understands rap for what it is, then being out of touch seems the only option I suppose.
The more troublesome reason for the post-Grammy backlash is the future. Does this rather conservative voting in regards to such an overt, brash genre make it even more difficult for ‘pure’ rap artists and albums to receive their just due? Does pop now begin to invade hip-hop and cause it to have the identity issues that R&B has had in many regards as of late? If rappers are looking for recognition, do they begin to rely on a safer platform to succeed? Maybe this is completely too cerebral, but look over recent times and The Heist definitely seems a departure. I won’t even mention this is the first solo album (Yeezus) that Kanye West has been nominated for that didn’t win…
My personal opinion is that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did deserve Grammys – I’m just unsure they deserved to sweep the rap category, particularly for Best rap album. At this point though, it’s a done deal and there is no reason for Mack to hang his head down. Still, It just doesn’t quite feel right.