April 24, 2019 / 6:52 PM

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The Evolution of Hip-Hop at the Grammy Awards and What It Means for 2014



Gone are the days of hip-hop being solely contained to stoops of New York City and other inner cities across the country. Hip-hop has evolved into an international language of creative expression. Just about anywhere you go, hip-hop will follow. From advertisements to the runways in Milan, hip-hop cannot be escaped and it is a force to be reckoned with.

But even with hip-hop being such a dominant force in today's society, the long strides the genre has made, both in the music world and the real world, still tend to go unacknowledged. Some still don't even consider it music.

That lack of acknowledgement has even caused rifts in what is seen as one of the most prominent moments in an artists' career, receiving a Grammy award.

The 56th Grammy Awards are tomorrow and while hip-hop mogul Jay Z leads all artists with nine nominations, there was a time where hip-hop was essentially absent from the award show, and Jay Z even took it upon himself to boycott the Grammys.

Back in 1989, the Best Rap Performance category was presented for the first time. Hip-hop wasn't neccesarily new, but it was an emerging genre that few in the mainstream were aware of. Assuming that audiences would rather see something, virtually anything, besides the presentation of a rap award, the show opted out of televising that segment.

The Grammys didn't air the presentation of hip-hop-related awards, instead deciding to announce the winners prior to the telecast.

Imagine reaching the pinnacle of your career as an artist and having that moment essentially being removed right from beneath your feet. This feeling rocked DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith, who were the first rap act to ever win a Grammy, and the duo decided to boycott the awards that year. Salt-N-Pepa, Kid N' Play and Def Jam honcho Russell Simmons followed suit.

LL Cool J, who hosted Music's Biggest Night last year and is slated to host again this year, also refused to attend the show.

"What I really wanted to accomplish is, next year, or two years from now, the rappers would be able to have what I didn't have," Smith explained in an interview. He and Jeff performed on the show the following year.

A decade later, the hip-hop segment of the Grammys was televised, but there was still something unsettling about the category, like a lack of respect.

Jay Z boycotted the show saying, "I am boycotting the Grammys because too many major rap artists continue to be overlooked. Rappers deserve more attention from the Grammy committee and from the whole world. If it's got a gun, everybody knows about it; but if we go on a world tour, no one knows."

But that wasn't the rapping mogul's only dismay with the award show. He decided to boycott again in 2002 out of loyalty to DMX.

"I didn't think they gave the rightful respect to hip-hop. DMX had an incredible album in 1999. He didn't get a nomination. I was like, 'Nah, that's crazy,'" Jay Z said in an interview.

A rap song has never been nominated for Record of the Year. However, "Blurred Lines" is nominated in this category this year but the only thing hip-hop about the infectious pop anthem is a rap verse from T.I.

Two rap albums are nominated for Album of the Year; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist and Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid m. A.A.d City.

Some would say rap is making progress at the Grammys but the show is still missing one factor.

Hip-hop is a male dominated genre and women are often highly sexualized and not seen as contributors to the art. The Grammys seem to virtually ignore women in hip-hop. Since the creation of the Best Rap Album category, three women have been nominated. Missy Elliott, Eve and Nicki Minaj are the only female rappers to boast this accomplishment though none of them have ever won in this category.

A very discouraging realization for some female artists gives femcees like up and coming Chiiirp some hope.

"As a female musician, I'm deeply bothered by the lack of kudos or representation of female rappers at the Grammy Awards," Chiiirp said. "The industry needs that aberration of a female artist in it. Hopefully, a change will come in this male dominated industry. We for sure need a balance!"

The Grammys once had a category for Best Female Rap Solo Performance. It was last awarded in 2004.

This weekend's Grammy awards are somewhat of a milestone in hip-hop history at the show. The show will mark the third time in Grammy history that two hip-hop albums are nominated for Album of the Year. Giving the award to either Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Kendrick Lamar would definitely highlight the growth of hip-hop at the Grammys, although the Grammy rap committee had some reservations about nominating The Heist.

Even Macklemore has some reservations of his own about the nomination. In a recent interview with The Source, Macklemore weighed in saying, "We obviously had massive success on commercial radio, and I think that, in ways, The Heist was a bigger album, but Kendrick has a better rap album."

A win for Kendrick isn't impossible and if he just so happens to snag the most prestigious award, the hip-hop community will be at ease, for now at least.

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