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Why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Grammy win isn’t about race

Ryan Lewis and Macklemore show off their four Grammy awards.
Ryan Lewis and Macklemore show off their four Grammy awards.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis walked away with the majority of the rap Grammys this past weekend, with only one going to a guy named Jay-Z. Social media was in an uproar, not because Mack and Ryan won so many golden statues, but because West Coast sensation Kendrick Lamar walked away with none, most notably Best Rap Album.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist won the award over Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail, and Kanye West’s Yeezus.

Kendrick Lamar easily had the best album of all the nominees, and one of the best rap albums in many years, yet he lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Make no mistake The Heist was a very good album. In my opinion it was the second best of the nominated releases. But what Kendrick did was special.

Some believe that Mack & Ryan walked away with the award simply because they’re white?


Some say it’s because their hit single ‘Same Love’ promotes a liberal Gay agenda.

Could be.

I believe they won the award because the people making the decisions don’t know Hip-Hop.

If you take a look at the history of the Grammy’s more often than not they get it wrong. The first award given for Best Rap Album in 1996 went to Naughty By Nature for Poverty’s Paradise. This was against albums from the likes of 2Pac, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Each one of those albums was monumental while Naughty’s third release was just OK. On a side note, the best album released in 1995, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was not even nominated.

Last year Drake's Take Care won out over Nas' Life is Good. In 2002 Outkast's Stankonia won the award over Jay-Z's Blueprint. In 1998 Diddy's No Way Out took home the award over albums from the Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean, and the Wu-Tang Clan, all of which were better albums. As the late great Ol' Dirty Bastard said on that memorable night, "Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is for the children."

Over the years acts like Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, The Fugees, Outkast, Ludacris, Lil’ Wayne, and Drake have walked away with the Grammy for Best Rap Album. Some deserved it, some did not, but they’re surely all black.

Despite Eminem winning the award on five out of six tries, and maybe only deserving it once, I still don’t buy that this is a race issue. It’s more about the Recording Academy members being clueless about this genre of music.

They vote for who they know. They know who Macklemore is. They don’t know who Kendrick Lamar is. If faced with choosing between Eminem and Jay-Z, yeah, more than likely they’ll choose Eminem. Call it what you will, but a group of what is most likely middle-aged white people are more familiar with Eminem and Outkast than they are with a Raekwon or Nas. It’s just how it goes.

It’s not a conspiracy against Hip-Hop, Kendrick Lamar, or anything else. The people making the decisions just aren’t Hip-Hop heads.

With that being said, their opinion means nothing.

I too am guilty of being upset when a Grammy goes to someone who is less deserving, but I’m over it. I now know what the Grammy’s are about. If a panel that included Kool Herc, KRS-One, Chuck D, Suge Knight, Russell Simmons, and Master P chose Macklemore’s album over Kendrick’s, then I’d be outraged. These people know Hip-Hop – they live it.

Until that happens, let’s chill and let the Grammy winners have their moment. Just keep it in perspective that the Grammys aren’t a “Hip-Hop” thing judged by “Hip-Hop” people.

In the words of the greatest hype man of all time, Flavor Flav, “Who gives a f*ck about a g*ddamn Grammy?”

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