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The Grammys were held last night in Los Angeles.  The producers of the show had to scramble to put in some content that would acknowledge the untimely death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash just hours before the telecast.  Ironically, Kobe was heading towards the Staples Center to coach a game for his daughter Gigi’s team before he and she became the victims of the tragic accident.

A Washington Post Op-Ed by Chris Richards called out the Grammys and its need to radically change in light of comments made by Sean “Diddy” Combs, whose words at a pre-Grammy gala captured the sentiment of many in the industry, particularly blacks.

“[Combs] declared that “black music has never been respected by the Grammys,” then called on the academy to change course. It’s outrageous that the artists who’ve been excluded from the academy’s highest honors are the ones tasked with initiating reform, but here we are. “I’m officially starting the clock,” Diddy said. “You’ve got 365 days to get this s— together.”

It’s interesting that on a day where the entire country and much of the westernized world stopped in its tracks to mourn the death of a black man, the Grammys, a celebration of American music, which is disproportionately black, is coming under fire for its lack of recognition of the contributions of black music and musicians at the venue that is best known because of that black man.

Richards goes on to say in the op-ed,

“Rap music has been the dominant mode of pop music for this entire century, but here’s a distressing piece of Grammy trivia that we have to keep reciting, year after year: Only one rap album, OutKast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” has ever won the most coveted Grammy, album of the year. And that was 16 years ago.”

How is this possible? 

How can the world seemingly stop spinning for a second because of the death of a black man and then hours later black folks walk away from the biggest celebration of American Music, hosted by a black female feeling totally disrespected by an industry that is overwhelmingly represented by black music and black artists?

Share of total music album consumption* in the United States in 2018, by genre

*Album consumption is calculated as follows:
Total Album Project Units = Album Sales + (Song Sales/10) + (On-Demand Audio Streams/1500)

In 2018 more that one-third (34.4%) of the music consumed in the United States was from black genres – hip hop, R&B, Jazz and Reggae – not to mention the black folks who are a part of the other genres like Pop.  That same year black people comprised 13.3% of the population of the country. So according to the two statistics, blacks were 2.5 times more represented in music consumption as they were in the population.

Again, how is this possible?

The answer is very easy.

White Supremacy.

White Supremacy and White Supremacist Thought has no problem ceding athletic and artistic superiority to the American Negro, because those pursuits and the narrative thereof are mythologized as not being correlated with, if not mutually exclusive from intelligence.  

America has absolutely no problem whatsoever putting Kobe Bryant on a pedestal, and don’t get me wrong he absolutely deserves the recognition that he is getting especially due to the tragic way that he left us along with his 13 year old daughter.   Even though Kobe was well on his way to establishing himself in Hollywood as an All-Star Storyteller – he already had an Oscar on his mantle to complement his five NBA Championship rings – the reason for the mourning, grief and celebration was because of his excellence in basketball.

Hip Hop was the number one genre of music consumed in 2018 making up more than 20% of all music consumed.  Much of that music that is in the popular sphere contains language, stories, narratives and images that not only do not challenge White Supremacy but instead actually does the bidding for White Supremacy by promoting his evil twin half brother Black Inferiority.

Some whites apparently have no problem consuming a genre of music that paints an aural picture and tells a story about black folks that is completely consistent with all of the negative things and stereotypes that they have been taught about blacks.  One reason for this is because much of music consumption is done in the privacy of  your own two earbuds.  The outside world may never know what’s on your playlist so you are free to listen to whatever you want without fear of judgement or reprisal.  

Plus let’s be honest, it’s not like they’re actually calling anybody the N Word when they’re listening to the music. Quite the contrary, they’re listening to the rappers label themselves and others with the epitaph.  Singing along with the lyrics, well the jury is still out on that one. 

It should come as no surprise that commercial success and critical acclaim are not usually highly correlated, especially in today’s hyper-commercial world.  When was the last time that the biggest blockbuster of the year won the Oscar for Best Picture.  

So we shouldn’t be surprised when white folks, who make up the vast majority of the voters for the Grammy Awards don’t pick a hip hop album for Album of the Year.  If the album were like some of the misogynistic, violent, hyper consumerist n-word laced albums that are represented at the top of the hip hop charts,  then a white person who decided to vote for it might think that by doing so they are admitting that they are racist. I think many of them would rather keep their love of hip hop as a private passion and leave the accolades for artists whose music they could vote for with a clear conscious.

But what about the hip hop and black music that is edifying and promotes a positive image of black people, why doesn’t that get the accolades since most of that isn’t commercially successful.  

That’s the winning formula right?  

America is not interested in that kind of celebration.

It would undermine the cornerstone, the foundation and the bedrock on which this country stands – White Supremacy.

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