Rappers, women aiming big at Grammy Awards

February 10, 2019

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COMBINATION photos of some of the nominees for the Grammy Awards: Kendrick Lamar (top left), Drake (top right), Childish Gambino (bottom left) and Janelle Monae (bottom right).—AFP
COMBINATION photos of some of the nominees for the Grammy Awards: Kendrick Lamar (top left), Drake (top right), Childish Gambino (bottom left) and Janelle Monae (bottom right).—AFP

MUSIC’S biggest stars will gather in Los Angeles on Sunday for the Grammy Awards, and this year observers are hoping the hip-hop and women artists leading the pack will get their due. The industry’s annual gala draws eye rolls every year from critics who say the winners are too white and too male, but for the second consecutive year black hip-hop artists dominated the nominations across the board. Rapper Kendrick Lamar — who won a Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN but not a Grammy for Album of the Year — earned eight nominations, while Canadian rapper Drake snagged seven. Women artists scored nods in all of the top categories after being largely snubbed a year ago, with rapper Cardi B, pop diva Lady Gaga, pop futurist Janelle Monae and folk rocker Brandi Carlile among the frontrunners. In the Best New Artist category, six of the eight nominees are women.

But skepticism lingers that nods will actually translate into wins, after rap mogul Jay-Z left empty-handed last year despite eight nominations. That show sparked a major backlash — even retro-funk star Bruno Mars’s surprise sweep in the top categories was divisive, as it was seen as somewhat out of touch with the more groundbreaking work on offer. In response, the Recording Academy — which organises the gala — created a diversity task force and expanded the four top categories from five nominees to eight. “The industry and the Recording Academy do understand that they have a problem on their hands,” said Murray Forman, who studies pop music at Boston’s Northeastern University

Lamar once again has a chance to win the prestigious Album of the Year award after three prior losses — this time for the soundtrack for the film Black Panther. Drake nabbed nominations across the top categories for his album Scorpion. Women snagged five of the eight Album of the Year nominations.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2019