Hip-hop has always had a tough time with acceptance. In the genre's early days, many critics failed to recognize the musical merits of 1980s rappers like Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C. Yet as time went on, rap music continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and became the most influential genre in the world.
These days, hip-hop influences just about everything. Miley Cyrus teamed with Mike Will Made It for her career-changing Bangerz album; Katy Perry hit up Juicy J for "Dark Horse" and Florida Georgia Line are recording country songs with Nelly. Hip-hop is powerful. But every year, come Grammy time, hip-hop fans start feeling a little less heroic as they join rap artists and industry types in a collective moan, disgusted by the misrepresentation at the annual awards ceremony.
Kendrick Lamar lost the Best Rap Album award to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in 2014, while a very deserving YG failed to get nominated in the same category this year. Back in 2002, Jay Z admitted to MTV News that he purposely declined invitations to the awards ceremony because DMX wasn't properly nominated and he didn't feel his own nomination was considered among the genre's best.
And way back in 1989, hip-hop collectively decided to skip the Grammys, because although the genre received its own category for the first time, the award wasn't part of the televised portion of the ceremony.
This year, if Iggy Azalea -- a successful, but controversial rapper -- wins against Eminem, Common, Wiz Khalifa, Schoolboy Q and Childish Gambino in the Best Rap Album category, there will surely be an uproar.
Azalea, who is white and born in Australia but spits with a less-than-natural southern rap accent, has drawn ire from rap fans and critics who charge not only that she's essentially a pop artist but that she's guilty of cultural appropriation. A Grammy win would provide further proof that the Grammys just aren't in tune with hip-hop's overarching tastes.
According to Billboard, the Grammy committee is comprised of about 12,000 voting members and genre-specific "experts" who select nominees in a multi-step process that eventually whittles down a winner. It's usually described as a "peer" award, but when it comes to hip-hop we're not actually sure who the "peers" are. Does Jay Z get a vote? What about Dr. Dre? We're not entirely sure.
There's a lot of uncertainty, but if hip-hop wants the Grammy committee to change, maybe we should just boycott the Grammys altogether. If artists refused to attend and fans refused to watch, we would withdraw ourselves from a discussion that doesn't seem reflective of our sensibilities anyway. The rap class of 1989 did it.
"We're happy that we won, we're happy that the Grammys recognize rap as a music, but it takes away from the hype and it takes away from the energy that your fans that worked with you all year, your family and everybody weren't allowed to see it on television," a young Will Smith told "Yo! MTV Raps" back in 1989, after he and his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff won the first award for Best Rap Performance at the Grammys.
"We paid our dues and got our nomination just like everybody else and it's just not fair that we're not going to be able to be shown," Salt, from legendary duo Salt-N-Pepa told "Yo!" host Fab 5 Freddy back then.
The 1989 boycott didn't exactly make the Grammy committee completely in tune with hip-hop culture, but they did eventually include some of the hip-hop awards as part of the televised portion of the show. And in 2015, the Grammys need hip-hop more than hip-hop needs the Grammys.
Sure, it's easy for me to say -- I'm not an artist and I'm not seeking that musical validation -- but another Grammy performance or win isn't going to make Kanye West any better to us -- we already think he's God level -- and it definitely won't change hip-hop's feelings on Iggy Azalea.
In a lot of ways hip-hop artists are still fighting for that musical validation, and a Grammy award is a high-musical honor. But until the Grammy committee changes the voting process and begins to truly recognize the best of the genre and not just the most popular, then I say we should all just stay home.