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Hip hop has always received mixed support when it comes to the Grammy Awards. First introducing the Best Rap Performance category in 1989, first-time winners DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince famously boycotted the ceremony because the category was not televised.
Lyrical god Nas recently addressed the issue as he sat down with Foo Fighters’ front-man Dave Grohl, who was filling in as host on Chelsea Lately. While he said it’s current presence at the back-patting ceremony is “good” he admitted that it could be better. The 18-time Grammy nominee is in the running in the categories of Best Rap Performance (Daughters), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (Cherry Wine with Amy Winehouse), Best Rap Song (Daughters) and Best Rap Album (Life is Good).
With the 55th Annual Grammy Awards coming up this weekend, we thought we’d look at the chequered history of hip hop at the Grammys, the good and the bad, excluding the Kanye incident – which has been covered to death.
1. Young MC wins ‘Best Rap Performance’ (1990)
1990 was a year of change. The gaudy 80s were moving into the rearview, the world was still revelling in the destruction of the Berlin Wall and hip hop was starting to really make waves. Putting the attention on the dancefloor, Young MC rode his hit single Bust a Move to Grammy glory. Arguably one of hip hop’s greatest one-hit-wonders, he beat out Tone Lōc, De La Soul, Public Enemy and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for the trophy.
2. Puff Daddy wins ‘Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group’ (1997)
Hip hop’s king of good taste, Puffy was the hottest name in pop culture in 1997 as he and his Bad Boy brigade made it rain with their brand of commercially-minded hip hop. The most infamous example is the Notorious BIG tribute/cash-grab I’ll Be Missing You, which sampled The Police’s far-superior Every Breath You Take. Guess you can’t blame the man, heartstrings are there to be pulled by saccharine confections.
3. Ol’ Dirty Bastard takes over the Grammys (1998)
Still one of the greatest Grammy moments of all-time, the late ODB brought hip hop to the Grammys in 1998. As twee singer-songwriter Sean Colvin was accepting her award for Song of the Year, Dirt stormed the stage and grabbed the mic, fresh from the scene of a traffic accident. He then went on a Kanye-level rant, except better, about how Puff Daddy robbed the Wu-Tang Clan of their Best Rap Album trophy. Going out in a blaze of glory, he finished his business and calmly strolled off stage as guys in suits scrambled to regain control.
4. Eminem wins ‘Best Rap Album’ five times (2000, 2001, 2003, 2010, 2011)
Few careers are as storied as that of Eminem. In his meteoric rise to iconic status, he scored back-to-back Best Rap Album nods with the highly deserving The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. Even though it wasn’t to everyone’s taste, with it’s arena rock and pop leanings, The Eminem Show can certainly be considered a landmark album in hip hop and overall music history. As much as we can commend Em for his fight back from lethal drug abuse, at this point we’re simply rewarding and celebrating him just for being Eminem. In this writer’s opinion, barring a handful of good tracks, both Relapse and Recovery were glorified drink coasters, and not award-worthy.
5. 2 Chainz nominated for ‘Best Rap Album’ (2013)
The past year was a mixed bag for hip hop, with albums ranging from great to garbage. While no one has ever accused the Grammy committee for being on top of pop culture, their decision to nominate 2 Chainz for Best Rap Album is still perplexing. I love ‘ignorant rap’ as much as anybody but considering the former Tity Boi as being in the same league as other nominees The Roots (the rightful winners), Lupe Fiasco and Nas is ridiculous. Even Rick Ross at least arguably belongs in that class, releasing a solid if predictable album. On the plus-side maybe we’ll get a 2 Chainz invasion on stage when he ultimately loses out.