Everyone thought Iggy Azalea would be the unworthy victor in the Grammy rap categories this year. Billboard's panel of industry experts expected the reviled Australian songstress to sweep virtually every award, a prediction that elicited a collective "please don't" from publications like Vulture.
For the sake of everyone's sanity, Azalea didn't come out on top. Instead, Grammy voters opted to honor another perennially controversial white rapper: Eminem.
In the pre-show announcement, the Grammys announced Eminem's win for best rap album for Marshall Mathers 2 (beating Azalea's The New Classic) and best rap/sung collaboration for "Monster" with Rihanna (beating Azalea's "Fancy" with Charli XCX).
While Azalea haters are probably breathing a sigh of relief, both Eminem's winning album and song are mediocre at best, undeserving of an enduring accolade. Sadly, this is what the Grammys chose to celebrate with their rap awards this year: mediocre music penned by an increasingly irrelevant artist with a long history of misogyny and hate. In other words: one of the industry's greatest monsters.
A tired attempt to recapture the spotlight. Billboard insiders had voted Eminem as the least likely to come up with the win. As it should be. Marshall Mathers LP 2 depicted Eminem trying to recapture the former provocative glory of his first Marshall Mathers LP released in 2000. That album was also deeply mysoginstic and homophobic, with lines like "My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/That'll stab you in the head whether you're a fag or les ... Hate fags?/The answer's yes" off "Criminal." It was so bad, GLAAD demanded the album be pulled from the shelves for its "hate-filled lyrics."
Marshall Mathers LP 2 brought back the hateful persona that made Eminem a household name. The music was bad with flows that came across as "overwrought and labored ... [playing] Frankenstein with conventional word choice and rhyme patterns," Pitchfork wrote.
On "Rap God," Eminem rapped that he wanted to "break a motha-fuckin' table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half." The line drew ire across the Internet and felt so out of place in the current cultural conversation. Salon called it the "worst kind of throwback" asking, "Once the excitement of his new material fades away, will anyone take it seriously as music?"
The Grammys apparently think so. And with such, they proved they still know nothing about what makes for resonant and impactful hip-hop. They chose Marshall Mathers LP 2 over so many more deserving albums, such as Childish Gambino's artistically progressive Because the Internet and Common's brilliantly conscious Nobody's Smiling or Schoolboy Q's honest Oxymoron.
Still, Eminem is a better choice than Azalea. She's long demonstrated she knows nothing of what makes hip-hop the vital genre that it is. She's appropriated black styles and sounds without giving back to the genre in any meaningful way. Eminem has at least helped keep the genre's critical social-political spirit alive in many ways, and he understands the genre's deep communion with underprivileged groups.
But this choice is the worse of two evils. Every other artist up for best rap album deserved it more. And so the Grammys prove once again they know nothing about real rap music.