Macklemore & Ryan Lewis easily swept the 2014 Grammy Awards, racking up wins in multiple rap categories at a ceremony that has historically been blind to the cultural impact of many revered hip-hop artists.
Critics argued that even in 2014, it still took a white rapper like Macklemore to achieve this, while Kendrick Lamar left without a single trophy—despite putting out one of the best rap albums of the decade—but, at least, the Seattle rapper saw that backlash coming from a mile away.
Macklemore was hyper aware of how polarizing his wins could be, and it seemed to make him a bit nervous and very apologetic.
This year, it’s Iggy Azalea who seems primed to be the Grammys hip-hop darling, although much of her music has been widely regarded as pop. This year she's actually nominated in both rap and pop Grammy categories, but her approach to dealing with the “race conversation” has been very different from Macklemore’s.
Ahead of the ceremony Macklemore accurately predicted that rap fans would be peeved if he beat Kendrick, and he was open to a dialog about race within the genre, while Iggy Azalea has taken a much more confrontational approach.
No one can blame the Australia-born rapper for losing her cool when Azealia Banks decides to lash out with nasty Twitter attacks, but her response to rational cultural conversations has been much more dismissive.
In December, Q-Tip took the time to explain to Iggy why the origins of hip-hop are important in a long series of tweets, making sure to emphasize that he was not trying to criticize her, but simply to “spark insight into the field you are in.”
@IGGYAZALEA this is not a chastisement this is not admonishment at ALL this is just one artist reaching to another hoping to spark insight— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) December 20, 2014
@IGGYAZALEA into the field you r in. I say this in the spirit of a hopeful healthy dialogue that maybe one day we can continue— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) December 20, 2014
In response to his background information, Iggy declared that she was "not going to sit on Twitter & play hip-hop squares with strangers to somehow prove I deserve to be a fan of or influenced by hip hop.” Sigh.
The 24-year-old has since made it a point to respond to almost every mention of her name, even when it seems unnecessary, accusing people of wanting her to be “a stereotype.”
how you feel about me blending musical genres together doesn't bother me, no one is making you support or buy pop rap albums.— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) December 23, 2014
So, maybe there’s some middle ground to be found here.
Macklemore didn’t need to go to extreme lengths like posting his apology text message to Kendrick Lamar after beating him for the Best Rap Album Grammy, and Iggy doesn’t need to completely dismiss conversations about race and cultural appropriation in hip-hop.
This conversation about white rappers receiving more accolades than their equally talented and successful black counterparts -- Nas, still hasn't won a Grammy for example -- has crept into lyrics as well, with J. Cole (who hasn’t won a Grammy either) mentioning both Macklemore and Iggy by name on “Fire Squad.”
“While silly n---as argue over who gon’ snatch the crown/ Look around my n---a white people have snatched the sound,” he raps. “This year I probably go to the awards dapper down/ Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.”
Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks Iggy might do well at the 2015 Grammys, but will her attitude toward these conversations remain the same?
There's a difference between being yourself and being your stereotype. When people I've never met say I should act more like "myself"— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) January 28, 2015
I feel like they're really saying "act more like how I sterotype you to be, so I can feel comfortable"— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) January 28, 2015
She’s nominated for Best Rap Album with The New Classic, and Best New Artist, both of which Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won last year.
In comparison to them, however, she doesn’t appear in any other hip-hop categories, showing up instead for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with “Fancy.”
If she wins in both rap and pop categories, that will likely give more fuel to those who claim that her music is more pop than rap, and argue that she shouldn't be nominated for rap at all. And then how will she handle that conversation?
I'm almost certain that there will be no apology texts.