Hip-hop has had a long and contentious relationship with the Grammy Awards. More often than not, the rap nominations cause a stir among MCs and fans alike. This year, this MTV News writer suggested that hip-hop boycott the Grammys, like they did way back in 1989 and like Jay Z did for several years starting in 1999.
But Wale, for one, doesn't think a boycott is the answer. He still hopes to one day get that Grammy validation for himself.
"My slight obsession with Grammy is that it's my opportunity to be like, 'OK, world.' [My music's] for the 'hood, but it's so important that it penetrated through that and it's in the hands of [a mass number of] people," the Maybach Music MC told MTV News in January, when we sat down to speak with him about race in America.
"I feel like a Grammy will enable me [to be] like, 'Bro, this is my story.' I'm from Washington D.C. and I was able to make it out," he continued.
Wale's yearning for a golden gramophone -- he was nominated in 2013 for Best Rap Song -- doesn't mean that he's down with Grammy politics when it comes to rap music. This year, hip-hop fans and artists have taken issue with Iggy Azalea's inclusion in the Best Rap Album category, while fan-favorite rapper YG was left out.
Iggy is a rapper from Australia whose hit records ("Fancy" and "Black Widow") lean more toward pop than hip-hop. In fact, the Best Rap Album nom is her only hip-hop nomination -- she has two nominations in the pop field and a nom in the Best New Artist category.
YG, a rapper from Compton, California, dropped his critically acclaimed debut, My Krazy Life, but it failed to get a single nomination at Sunday night's awards ceremony.
Wale isn't up for a Grammy this year -- he's finishing his upcoming The Album About Nothing with comedian Jerry Seinfeld -- but during our interview he spoke passionately about the Grammy committee and how it doesn't reflect hip-hop's overall tastes and sensibilities.
"YG presented how every person should present their album ... at least their debut," Wale said about the snub. "Because it told a story, it was a like a movie. It told a story, it was very relevant to the culture; [it] had hit records that were popular to the people [to] which it needed to be popular for. That's not for no Iggy Azalea fans, it's not even for the older crowd that gives Esperanza Spalding the Album of the Year [Ed.: Spalding won Best New Artist in 2011]. Obviously [Esperanza's] very talented but it's just important to us."
Wale's point is valid. While Spalding is a talented jazz artist, the fact that she beat out both Drake and Justin Bieber made her win a controversial one.
Then there's the issue of race. In 2014, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist won the Best Rap Album award over Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d. city. In response, Macklemore publicized a text message that he sent to Lamar apologizing for "robbing" him and, essentially, his white privilege.
"You basically told me you know you shouldn't have got it, and you got it because you're white," Wale said, reflecting on Macklemore's post-Grammy apology text. "And you're gonna put it on on Instagram and show people you're apologizing?
"I'm not trying to make it a race thing and I'm not saying there's even nothing wrong with Iggy Azalea's music, it's just like, do y'all realize that every person who's not black always gets elevated when it's Grammy time?"
It's important to note that though Wale appeared on Iggy's 2013 single "Work," he still has questions about the Aussie MC.
"That twang and all that, that ain't come from Australia," he said of Iggy's rap accent, which sounds distinctly Southern. "What if I did a whole album with a British accent? Y'all would kill me, kill me. I wouldn't get nominated for no Brit Award. They'll be like, 'Don't come here bloke.' "
For Wale, seeing artists like YG get overlooked by the Recording Academy is frustrating, especially when it gets in the way of hip-hop's artistic expression.
"You're omitting something that's 100% authentic in favor of something that really is a caricature of what you interpreted or what you heard from our culture. So you're basically telling me anybody can discover a voice or a character and be that person and make an album that's Grammy-worthy?" he reasoned. "This is the same trophy I've been fighting my whole career to get -- one of them."