Kanye West has been a passionate supporter of Frank Ocean, and a hugely vocal fan of Blonde, in particular. Since news broke that Ocean’s two 2016 albums, Blonde and Endless, are ineligible for consideration for this year’s Grammy Awards, West’s been doing some thinking on the matter.
And he is pissed. By his logic, if the Grammys can change — or bend — the rules for anyone, they can bend them for Frank. If they don’t? He’s not going.
At the Oakland stop on the Saint Pablo tour, West took a moment to get real with the crowd, as he often does, except this time talk of collaborations and copycats wasn’t of interest. He focused on the Grammys and how the Recording Academy allegedly makes exceptions for some of their rules, using Lady Gaga’s 2010 Grammy performance as an example.
“[Gaga] wasn’t nominated for Best New Artist, right?” he begins. “But they wanted her to perform at the show; they wanted her to open. So the Grammys secretly changed something about the nominations in order to nominate her, in order for her to perform in the show. Now, Frank Ocean, on the other hand, is very vocal that his album wasn’t nominated for the Grammys, right? Since he’s vocal, no one wants to say nothing about it. No one wants to do nothing about it. And I’m saying this to y’all, because a lot of people try to make a scene, like, ‘I’m so self-centered.’ But the album I listened to the most this year is Frank Ocean’s album. And I’ll tell you this right now: If his album’s not nominated in no categories, I’m not showing up to the Grammys.”
Some background, because this is complicated — and Kanye has a point. Gaga’s debut album, The Fame, earned her five nominations at the Grammy Awards in 2010, which is where she performed with Elton John at the start of the ceremony and took home Grammys for Best Dance Recording (for “Poker Face”) and Best Electronic/Dance Album. The Fame was released in the United States on October 28, 2008, and then reissued as The Fame Monster in 2009, with eight additional songs brought into its mix. The Fame Monster wound up getting nominated at the 2011 Grammys. Her lack of a Best New Artist nomination in 2010 forced the Recording Academy to go back to the drawing board on those eligibility rules, too.
Basically, the Grammys made it a priority to honor Gaga’s work, and that lone nomination at the 2009 Grammys that kept her from a Best New Artist nomination in 2010 prompted a revision of the eligibility criteria for the Best New Artist category. To sum up West’s commentary: The Grammys made an exception for Gaga based on her rise in popularity and the undeniable might of The Fame, and Ocean should get the same consideration. Boos rang out in the arena toward the end of his speech. “As artists, we gotta come together to fight the bullshit they been throwing us with. All we need is a fair shot. Let the album lose. Let whoever win or lose.”
CORRECTION (10/23/16, 4:45 p.m. ET): The Fame was released on October 28, 2008 in the United States; the previously cited date was for the Canadian release of the album. This update has been made in the text above.