This was supposed to be the year that the traditionally stuffy Grammys got hip. With hip-hop receiving the majority of nominations in the Record and Album of the Year categories, it seemed that after years of being flogged for its stodginess, music's highest honor would finally reflect the times.
And then the show started, and 50 Cent was robbed of the Best New Artist award, while Eminem, Outkast and the Black Eyed Peas all were deprived of Record of the Year (see "Beyonce Wins Most, Outkast Shine, 50 Cent Shut Out At Grammys").
Having made the best-selling album of 2003, 50 Cent seemed like a shoo-in for the prestigious — though sometimes ill-fated — honor of Best New Artist. Yet the prize went to Evanescence, whom none of the so-called experts gave even half a chance. Coldplay's "Clocks," the only non-hip-hop song in the Record of the Year category, was considered a qualified dark horse to win, but did in fact do just that, beating out Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love," Eminem's "Lose Yourself," "Outkast's "Hey Ya!" and Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is the Love." (Click here for a list of Grammy winners.)
50 Cent, realizing that he had whiffed on all five of his nominations by the time the Best New Artist award was given out, expressed his outrage at the slight by heading up onstage when it was Evanescence's name and not his that was announced as the winner (probably not the best ploy for a return invitation). At least a bewildered Amy Lee thanked him in her acceptance speech.
Outkast's win for Album of the Year is commendable, though it doesn't remedy the damage done to Grammy's street cred by the 50 dis. Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below is a great album and its eclectic mix transcends genre pigeonholes, a characteristic predictably favored by the Grammy voting body. Straightforward rap remained relegated to the non-televised portion of the program.
The Dirty South duo's double LP also won for Best Rap Album, despite its singles "Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move" being progressively funkier than the more conventional rap approach taken by its competition: Missy Elliott's Under Construction, 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin', Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse and the Roots' Phrenology.
Of the six rap categories, none of which were televised, Eminem nabbed two for the same song, the soundtrack single "Lose Yourself," while Missy, who already owns a couple of Grammys, netted herself a pair. No discredit to either artist, but could the Grammy board have gotten more conservative than awarding the white guy with seven previous Grammy wins and a woman whose crossover appeal is evident by TV commercials and her own E! "True Hollywood Story" episode?
A great song notwithstanding, Beyoncé's joint with Jay, "Crazy in Love," also won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, despite it containing the least amount of actual rap compared to the others vying for the award: Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is the Love," LL Cool J's "Luv U Better," the Neptunes' "Frontin' " and Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful."
It's hard to even broach the subject of rap and hip-hop in 2003 without recognizing 50 Cent, but somehow the Grammy voting board managed to do so. Until hip-hop really does steal the show, the Grammys will continue getting a bad rap (see "From Fresh Prince To Outkast: How Hip-Hop Took Over The Grammys" ).
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For a look at the nominees, Grammy fashion, past winners and much more, visit our Grammy hub.