We live in a society that did not deem it appropriate for African Americans to have official voting rights until 1965. That was 49 years ago that living, breathing, sentient human beings were not allowed to vote in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We live in a society that is still in the process of legalizing gay marriage. We live in a society that idolizes high school athletes and cocaine-abusing scam artists. We live in a society that often breeds individuals with no idea how to think for themselves.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did a fantastic job with The Heist; it’s actually one of my favorite albums from this year. Did they deserve to win a Grammy for “Best New Artist?” In a world that turns over obsolete objects quicker than a PC modem, the term “new” is pretty much irrelevant. But, the answer is probably yes. Did they deserve to win ‘Best Rap Album’? That is seriously up for debate. It was a wonderfully crafted and musically pleasing statement on the disillusions of an inflated middle American culture. It was visceral and raw. It was beautiful. Was it rap? No.
I’m from Albany, N.Y. and am fully aware that I grew up in the upper-middle class of this country. I attended an all male, private, military school for all seven years of my secondary education. What album do I relate most to from this year’s nominees for the best rap album? You guessed it, The Heist. Seattle, the hometown of the winners (Lewis was born in Spokane), is an affluent city that isn’t hurting for jobs requiring advanced degrees. What does that mean? It means that an affluent white male singing about gay rights in front of a crowd of successful musicians and millionaire producers isn’t advancing anyone or anything. It’s boring, it’s perpetuated media and it’s not real. Cultural change comes from the ground up, ostentation stays put – there is no trickle down effect.
Kendrick Lamar isn’t friendly to the Grammy’s. Neither is Kanye West. Lamar is from notoriously famed Compton and West from Chicago, or as parts of it are increasingly referred to today, “Chiraq.” West in some lights is old news; most of America is aware of his narcissism and total disregard for the opinions of others. Lamar is a little less known. He’s skinny, wears baggy clothes, brings his crew on stage, and freely raps about the struggles he had while growing up. Sound familiar? Unlike so many others in his “rap” genre, basically everyone but Jay-Z, he makes these things personable. I am in no way saying I can relate to what he says in his songs about an upbringing in Compton, because that would be flat out sickening, but for someone who typically doesn’t care for Lamar’s type of rap, he really does it for me. I saw him this past summer and he puts on a hell of a show. It was genuinely impressive, because he’s got passion and emotion. He’s awesome.
This is just my opinion and the truth is that it doesn’t really matter. I just hope to inspire new perspectives and thought processes to others. My biggest issue? I believe that Lamar and West had the two most unique and forward-thinking albums of the year. Macklemore is great and I fervently support gay marriage equality and everything that he speaks on in his lyrics. Unfortunately, the hand of the Grammys and their “forward thinking” board of directors and ownership successfully managed to sabotage the real miracles of the year in the form of two African-American males that, less than 50 years ago, would have struggled to walk into a voting booth on election day. Now? They are making music and controlling their destiny. Fifty years ago Macklemore would’ve just been a lawyer or something.
Neither West nor Lamar won an award. “Best Rap Album” or “Album of the Year” were honors that one or both of them may have deserved based on production value and lyrical content. Macklemore didn’t win because of his production value and lyrical content. He won because of his message. West and Lamar? They had messages too, ones that are probably more powerful and pertinent, compared to Macklemore’s, to the socioeconomic issues our nation faces currently. America isn’t ready for the successful African American and apparently neither is the Grammys. They lied to you. That isn’t progress on your silver platter. It’s Wonder Bread and a median fifth-grade reading level in your dented tin bowl, dressed in a pretty gown that says, “Sit down and butter the popcorn, we’ll do the thinking for you.”
I’m no cynic. I didn’t even watch the Grammys (Twitter), save a YouTube clip of the Beyonce/Jay-Z performance. Did she seriously have a baby? Unbelievable. I digress. Pop culture typically plays far too big a role in our society today. It is, however, quite possible when reading between the lines to see the political influences that are still forced upon the mass media, and in turn, our society as a whole. It’s a new semester, so if nothing else, learn to think for yourself. I swear it’s much more interesting.