At the 2014 Grammy Awards, “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won big in the rap category. The duo won Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Album along with the award for Best New Artist.
Many fans felt the award for Best Rap Album should have gone to “Swimming Pools” and “Poetic Justice” artist Kendrick Lamar for his album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”
Before delving into my opinions on these two albums and the nature of award shows, I’ll set a few things straight: Macklemore is indeed a rapper and “The Heist” is a rap album.
In reference to the award for Best Rap Album, Macklemore sent an apologetic text to Kendrick and then posted it online. Macklemore’s text read, “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you. I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during my speech and I froze. Anyway, you know what it is. Congrats on this year and your music. Appreciate you as an artist and a friend. Much love.”
Now this may bring up the thought, “Wait, an artist got snubbed for best album? Where was Kanye?”
Although the text itself seems awkward, Kendrick and Macklemore seem to be good friends according to mutually congratulatory and chummy messages shared between the artists before the Grammys and shared with USMagazine.com.
It was sharing the apology text on Instagram that was rather unnecessary and self-serving. If anything, it only cheapens his apology to Kendrick. Posting the text seemed to just be a public demonstration of his respect for Kendrick.
Kendrick delivered a performance with Imagine Dragons during the Grammys which Vibe called both awesome and anthemic and easily one of the night’s best performances.
What’s upsetting is that Kendrick was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and didn’t win a single one. The fact that there was so much acclaim for Kendrick’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” album from within the rap community shows how out-of-touch some award show nominators seem to be with the musical community.
Both “The Heist” and “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” passed the $1 million sales mark within a week of each other according to Billboard.com. The two albums are both good, but are set up in different ways.
Listening to “The Heist” in full doesn’t leave me with the same feeling as when listening to “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”
The narrative of Kendrick’s life is weaved through his album. “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” is the type of album that is admired in the hip hop/rap community. In an interview with Vibe, Drake called the album the last great concept album.
Although “The Heist” is an album of songs with lots of energy, some with a social message or personal narrative, it lacks a purposeful flow between songs, which I feel is necessary in any album that earns an award like Album of the Year.
OnRapgenius.com, contributors interpreted lines from Macklemore’s “A Wake” as pointing to subtle discrimination shown by listeners who favor him over other rappers who aren’t as well-spoken. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis produce songs that are noticeably cleaner and less aggressive than the stereotype of rap music.
This makes their music more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally enjoy listening to rap music.
Some people who enjoy listening to rap music might not enjoy listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis because it’s not necessarily staying true to the rap genre. These people would be those whom I would call the old-guard. Just because Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s style of music is slightly different doesn’t mean that it isn’t rap.
The ability to take a stereotyped genre and make songs that reach across the divide is admirable. Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar did great work for the rap genre in different ways.
What the issue boils down to is it seems popular award shows, like the Grammy Awards, celebrate popularity and ease of musical digestion at the expense of the cultures of musical genres.