Are the Grammys Racist? In Short, Yes


The Grammy Awards Sunday night confirmed something we already knew: not only is the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences dumb, it's also racist. I'm sure their board meetings are not a bunch of white dudes sitting around dropping the n-bomb, but the system is institutionally discriminatory against black artists, especially artists who don't perform whitewashed genres like jazz. 

The Grammys have a history of ignoring great music. Do yourself a favor and open up the Grammy Wikipedia page for Album of the Year. Start Apple+F'ing (or Control+F'ing if you're a corporate machine) some of your favorite artists. Led Zeppelin? Zero results. Hendrix? Nah. Jay-Z? One result, but it's in the footnotes, not in the section for winners or nominees. But now I'm just listing my personal favorites who got snubbed. Let's get in with numbers. 

1: The number of pure hip-hop albums that have won Album of the Year. OutKast's Speakerboxx/The Love Below in 2003. Lauryn Hill won for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but that was really an R&B album. 

0: The number of hip-hop songs that have won Record of the Year or Song of the Year. Let me stress: Zero. None, ever. 

13: The number of years Album of the Year has gone to a black artist(s). There have been 55 Album of the Year awards. Can anybody honestly say, "Yeah, I think black people deserve 23% of the credit for music in America"?

But OK, America was racist back in the day, so it's not fair to compare apples and oranges. Let's look at recent history. 

The winners the past five years: Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, Adele, Mumford & Sons. Notice a trend? Two rappers have been nominated in the past five years, out of 25 total nominees ... And one of them was Eminem, who, as we all know, is white. That means 8% of Album of the Year nods these past five years were for rap. Can anybody honestly say, "Yeah, I'd say rap is under 10% of the quality music in America today, and half of it comes from white people"? No, I don't think so. 

But why? The members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are all in the music business. Surely they should have some appreciation for who deserves awards in the music industry. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Like most other awards-voting bodies, the NARAS is self-selecting and self-propagating. Check out how one becomes a member here on the NARAS website. There are basically three paths: apply and prove you're worth it, be nominated for a Grammy, or get recommended by a member. Those last two blatantly favor those already within the Academy's favored genres. And given everything that I've said here, why would anybody really want to go through a rigorous application process to join such a lame organization? 

It's fitting that the actual award for a Grammy is a gramophone: an antiquated technology that hasn't been relevant for decades. Kind of like Robert Plant's music.