Let me distill Kanye’s Grammy’s argument into a Jay Z lyric for y’all:
“Rap mags try and use my black ass / so advertisers will give ’em more cash for ads… fuckers” — taken from ’99 Problems’, by JAY Z
There’s so many facets to the crystallised fuckery swirling after ‘Ye’s latest rant – I could spend 3000 words and more explaining the reasons why “meaningless” awards are important to artists like Kanye, his subsequent motivation to ensure the history books are as accurate as possible (according to Yeezus), the straight up and down bullshit of trying to undermine Beyoncé because she doesn’t play any more instruments than her vocal cords, how the type of creative expression and artistry almost exclusive to female popstars is consistently devalued and not considered credible and finally, that products of artistic collaboration are not inherently inferior to compositions from the pen of a single creator. I could do that, but frankly I had a shit ton to get through tonight, I’m super tired now and I shouldn’t really be writing at all. I just wanted to clarify a point y’all seem to be missing (or wilfully ignoring, as the case usually is).
The Grammy Awards, like many other award shows throughout the year, will gather together a certain world class level of artist – some considered “credible”, most not – to perform on their stage and draw in the largest audience possible to the televised show. “Thanks for helping us sell commercials to the tune of $1 million per spot in 2014,” they say to these artists. “But we don’t actually value what you do, so we won’t reward you for it. LOL.”
Kanye is just tired of rolling up with his clique (after a year spent impacting people, music and culture) only to be used as shills and sent on their way, stinging from the subtle “the type of art you create is not legitimate” burn.
Kanye’s challenge is not really about artistry at an artistry level, it’s about artistry at a commercialised level. “We, as musicians, have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album, and they feel like it takes them to a different place. And then they do this promotional event, and they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they want commercial advertising.” Loosely translated – there is a deep hypocrisy behind the Grammys refusal to recognise cultural and commercial impact as a legitimate strand of artistry, while simultaneously making money off it.
At this point I stopped to research a fact and came across this open letter from 2012, which is more well structured and phrased than everything I’ve written above. You really should read it, but if you can’t be bothered, here’s the crucial paragraph:
So while these very artists that the public acknowledges as being worthy of their money and fandom are snubbed year after year at the Grammys, the awards show has absolutely no qualms in inviting these same artists to perform. At first I thought that you were not paying attention to the fact that the mental complexion of the world is becoming tanned, that multiculturalism and poly-ethnicity are driving new meaning as to what is culturally relevant. Interesting that the Grammys understands cultural relevance when it comes to using Eminem’s, Kanye West’s or Justin Bieber’s name in the billing to ensure viewership and to deliver the all-too-important ratings for its advertisers.