This demonstrates a deeper issue than just music politics: the pursuit for acceptance of what’s considered mainstream or white. I see this every day when Black people drop their accents and stop using African-American Vernacular English in front of white people. I see this every time a Black kid doesn’t want to talk about racism in their mostly white class because they don’t want to be considered a race-baiter. We are constantly searching for approval we never receive.
The 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday evening and opened with an appearance by Kendrick Lamar. His performance consisted of a medley with songs like “DNA.” and “XXX.” from Damn. and “King’s Dead” from the Black Panther soundtrack. To accurately describe his performance in words would ultimately futile — though I will briefly attempt to do it anyway. I encourage you to check it out.
The Grammys have become, in some ways, less and less meaningful with each passing year. As the music industry has moved from records to C.D.s to digital ownership to streaming, it has become easier and easier for listeners to sample large swathes of music without committing to, for instance, a certain album as the year’s best. Online music platforms like Bandcamp and DatPiff have also undermined the monopoly of popular music by record companies, but it is difficult to qualify for a nomination if an artist is not signed to a record label, which disqualifies many indie artists and rappers who self-release albums or mixtapes. At the same time, the Grammys have become more discussed and anticipated than ever in the past few years, because — just like the Academy Awards — they have become a measure of seismic changes in cultural conversations. As racial and gender inequity have become more publicly debated, nights like the Grammys offer a chance for aging societies run by white men to show that they “get it” — with some necessary prodding, like the #OscarsSoWhite online movement.
On Feb. 15, Kendrick Lamar was unforgivably robbed of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for his superbly produced, lyrically genius, dialogue-inspiring and arresting political concept album To Pimp A Butterfly, which will indisputably be remembered as one of the greatest American hip-hop albums of all time. Also on Feb. 15, Taylor Swift, the most popular woman in the world, deservingly walked off the stage with the Album of the Year Grammy for her immaculately crafted and super-cherished pop opus 1989, to the validation and joy of fan-people everywhere. I find both of these conclusions about what happened at the 2016 Grammy Awards to be equally plausible, and this absurdity is what I think of as the Kendrick-Taylor paradox.
“The 58th Grammy Awards are getting ready to start NOW,” Bow Wow exclaimed, a full minute and a half earlier than he was supposed to. After beaming into the camera for a painful 20 seconds afterwards, he started bouncing around from Grammy attendee to Grammy attendee, instructing them not to be camera shy. After which, he incorrectly claimed that the show was starting two more times, “It’s going down! It’s happening! It’s about that time.