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The Evolving Importance of the Grammy Award

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Boardroom looks at the complicated legacy of the Grammy Awards and asked A Boogie, yxngchris, and more what taking home a trophy could mean to them.

I’m gon’ win a Grammy & move my family out the projects.” A Boogie, “Drowning” (2017)

From the ultimate career honor to the most suspect award in the game, artists have a wide range of perspectives on what it means to secure a Grammy

Through the years, the annual celebration of music has been no stranger to controversy.  Recently, some of the biggest-name artists have been public with their criticism of the Recording Academy, the lack of transparency in the voting process, and its historic erasure of Black and female artists.

The discussion came to a head in advance of the 2021 awards. At the time, the Weeknd was riding high. He had the biggest album in the country with After Hours. “Blinding Lights” served as the de facto soundtrack to the moment. He was even set to take the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show. As he rode the apex of this wave, he came up blank when the annual nominations were announced and his frustration came to the fore.

He released a statement to the New York Times in which he spoke out against the snub and promised a lifelong boycott of the event. The Weeknd said, “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”

via @champagnepapi on Instagram in 2020

However, the Starboy is far from the first or the only artist who has been public with his criticisms. 

Back in 2016, Frank Ocean opted out of the awards, telling Jon Caramonica in an interview in the New York Times that it was his “Colin Kaepernick moment.” Citing the handful of Black artists who took home Album of the Year in his lifetime, Ocean said, “[The Recording Academy] certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.”

Drake withdrew his two nominations for Certified Lover Boy ahead of the 2022 show and has even taken moments on the Grammy stage to express his frustration with the Recording Academy. This year, 2022 Record of the Year winner Silk Sonic opted out of the nomination process for An Evening with Silk Sonic. The lead single “Leave the Door Open” won all four awards for which it was nominated at the 2022 show. The full album was eligible for recognition this year. In his statement confirming the news, Bruno Mars said, “We truly put our all on this record, but Silk Sonic would like to gracefully, humbly and, most importantly, sexually, bow out of submitting our album this year.”

Even for those who are nominated, there is a hierarchy of prestige. The show only televises a portion of the awards, which can introduce a diminished perception for those which don’t make it to the public stage. Hit-Boy noted how his nomination as a producer on Nas’ King’s Disease II was “dope,” but the way that the show is structured, producers are relegated to a pre-show award, taking away some of the shine. “People gonna have to start just respecting [production],” he told Boardroom. “I know they can only put a certain amount of awards on TV, but they don’t broadcast the producers’ award because they don’t feel like it’s important enough. Man, like, if you all really knew.”

They join a long line of critics that also includes Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and J. Cole.

The conversation has built to a point at which representatives from the Recording Academy have felt motivated to address the criticisms head-on.

In a recent interview with Boardroom, the Academy’s CEO and President Harvey Mason Jr. said that part of his inspiration in accepting the position was to reestablish the organization’s legitimacy through enhancing the transparency of their voting process.  

“I am very affected by [the critiques of the Recording Academy] because I do work in the hip-hop and R&B field, so I see the history. I now have the opportunity as CEO to continue to make changes and I think a lot of it does stem from one factor. And that is our membership,” he explained. “We have an amazing, passionate, and loyal membership of 12,000 voters, but we need to continue to expand who’s in that membership. The simple fact is if anyone’s feeling like they’re underrepresented in the awards process, it’s exclusively dictated and driven by underrepresentation in the voting process”

However, despite it all, the stars will come out in Los Angeles for this year’s show. Jay-Z, who at times has been publicly critical of the Academy, will join DJ Khaled onstage as he’s nominated for five awards as both a performer for “God Did” and as a songwriter for Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.” For some who take home a trophy tonight, it will be a defining moment in their career.

Boardroom caught up with A Boogie, YxngChris, and Boi-1da in advance of this year’s show to assess what the honor means to them.

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What would winning a Grammy mean to you?

A Boogie: “Winning a Grammy has always been one of my goals.  On Drowning I say ‘I’m gon’ win a Grammy & move my family out the projects’.”

yvngchris: “It would mean the world to me. Many people can make Billboard [charts] but a Grammy is a little more special. There’s no bigger music accomplishment than a Grammy in my opinion.”

Boi-1da: “Everything. I’ve dreamed about that as a kid. Like, I’ve watched Dr. Dre win that award. I’ve watched some of my biggest idols win that award. Working my way to that point is something I literally dreamed about as a kid. It would be like making it to the NBA Hall of Fame, solidifying yourself in something that you worked so hard at and you loved passionately your entire life. That would mean everything to me.”

Do you think the Grammys do a good job highlighting rap music?

A Boogie: “I think they do the best they can [highlighting rap music]. Especially since they are responsible for all genres of music.”

yvngchris: “I do understand you can’t give 15 people a Grammy each. [It’s] only the best of the best which I respect.”

Getting ready for the show? Read Randall Williams’ rundown of the night’s biggest awards in rap music to prepare.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.