Watching the Grammys last night was a snoozefest. There’s gotta be something wrong with an awards show where the most exciting moment is the Twitter feedback on Pharrell Williams‘ hat, which now has its own Twitter account. 

Sure, there were highlights. Pharrell, Grammy’s Producer of the Year, performed with Stevie Wonder and Daft Punk in an energetic performance and the night’s best performance was the hip-hop/alt-techno mashup of Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. Sadly, though, the critically acclaimed Compton rapper whose debut good kid, M.A.A.D city was on most of 2014 best rap album lists went home emptyhanded. He lost Best Rap Album to white duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the night’s big winners in the hip-hop category with their album The Heist. It certainly seemed like a heist, even to Macklemore, who texted Lamar to say “It sucks that I robbed you,” afterwards.

The night’s sweetest moment was Jay-Z’s tribute to wife Beyonce who he thanked God for bringing into his life. Awww. But why do we as black people still require validation from the mainstream? Why, when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis win a few hip-hop Grammys, including Best New Artist (an award that has jinxed more than performer who’s gotten it) are people ready to concede hip-hop to them? J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, and poor Nas, who has never won a Grammy despite multiple nominations, are still going strong. Why, when it’s more than possible this was the peak moment of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ career?

We have “our” awards shows and in recent years, those have become more star-studded and sophisticated than ever. The same production team that does the Grammys does The BET Awards. While the Grammys and the Oscars are viewed as validation from your peers because their voters are in the same field, it’s been determined that both memberships aren’t made up of “peers” who can appreciate our work.

We can understand that any artist that creates a work of art wants for it to go beyond his or her own community.

The more exposure your work gets, the more money you can make. But there are plenty of successful artists who cater specifically to a Black audience who do well; Charlie Wilson being just the most recent example.There are also artists like Jay-Z, a Grammy winner last night for the song “Holy Grail,” with Justin Timberlake, who enjoy continued respect in the Black community but who have a fan base far beyond it.

The Grammys and Oscars are times when even the most jaded star can turn giddy during a thank-you speech. Everyone loves to get an award. But consider that Angela Bassett, a Yale School of Drama graduate, not only didn’t get an Oscar for her best performance, she has worked sporadically in movies ever since. She is among several Black Juillard and Yale School of Drama graduates, including Sanaa Lathan, who’ve never won any major awards at all. If we’re looking for the mainstream community to recognize our talent, relying on Oscar and Grammy voters isn’t the best way to do it.

Prince, a living legend by any standard, has won 7 Grammys. Alicia Keys has 15, including the Best R&B Album award she won last night. Prince has never won a Grammy for an album and at last count he’s made over 30, not including the 10 or so he released exclusively online. Alicia has released five. Do we think Grammy voters really know what they’re doing?

We look down on our own awards – whether it’s The BET Awards, the Image Awards, the Trumpet Awards, The Stellar Awards or Black Girls Rock, hoping instead to get the mainstream thumbs up instead. But Black artists should really be grateful to get props from their own, because for many of them, it was their own community that helped them get to mainstream status in the first place.

Most Black artists don’t start out being beloved by the mainstream. They are “discovered” only after the Black community gives them their blessing. The awards that we give out reflect our love and support for those artists, sometimes long after the mainstream gives a damn about them. Let’s celebrate those who celebrate us and stop looking to those outside our community to give us acceptance when we already have it with our own.

23 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Do Black Artists Need The Grammys and Oscars?

  1. Jermaine on said:

    Has AFRICA ever needed Europe? HELL NO. Europe has always ‘bitten’ off of AFRICA as it does to this very day.We need to STOP looking for the approval of those who have Historically hated us.

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  3. justin on said:

    Affirmative action for blacks!!!!! They can’t compete on a level field we must boost this point values so they can compete with thier white counter parts

  4. I think this all depends on how one views success and being recognized for it. New Edition has never received a Grammy, but I consider them successful. Yes, receiving a Grammy is an achievement that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we shouldn’t consider it THE only symbol of success. I don’t know this off the top of my head, but there are probably people who won Grammys who we haven’t heard from anymore or who aren’t around any more. They couldn’t keep it going and have continued success.

  5. PetraBlue on said:

    There was a time when Black artist dominated the Grammy’s, people like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson on sheer talent alone. Now these award shows are all about pushing a certain cultural agenda and these days it is the gay agenda. Our music is international and it has an international audience which is why the world emulates it. Macklemore & Lewis are in the back pockets of the gay movement and they are using them to strike back at the Rap community who did not accept them in the past. But Macklemore needs to get off that soapbox and stop blaming rap for homophobia. Country artist don’t accept them either and I have yet to hear Macklemore say one negative thing about the fashion industry and their rabid racism against black models.

  6. Theodore on said:

    I was finish the Grammy ‘s when Luther Vandross did not get one and as for the Oscar’s I was done with it when Lady Sings The Blues with Dianna Ross did not get one .

  7. Robert on said:

    I agree, all seven of the above actors were great in their roles last year. In fact I feel as though Octavia Spencer did a much better job in “Fruitville Station” than in “The Help” for which she won an Oscar. I would have loved to have seen all these actors and the directors nominated, however I am glad “Twelve Years A Slave” received 9 nominations as it is one of the best films ever made based on a true story that most people knew nothing about.

  8. AleishaHandco on said:

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  9. The Grammy’s and The Oscar’s are wonderful shows! Not every black artist that are nominated are going to win.Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are at the top of the field because they manage to keep Hip-Hop fresh,fun,and have the ability to talk about today’s social issues such as The Sugar Hill Gang, The Beastie Boy’s Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC once did. I would love to see 2chains,asap rocky,and kendrick lamar make a song that would come anywhere close to Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.Impossible!!!!! Because all they resonate with is: gold chains,drinking 40oz, making it rain, hoochie dressed women, and being in the HOOD and remaining in the HOOD!!!!!!

  10. Yeah they do if they want to be International!!! I think it is horrific that white people beat black people in black catergories. Makes me wonder about my people. I have never heard of the Mackle whatever group and they won in Rap catergories?

    • Mac Ben on said:

      It is not “horrific” its math. We are a mere 13 percent of the US population- whites, some 75 percent…Macklemore is a white rapper…do you see the correlation?

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