Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “The Heist” won the prize for rap album at the 56th Grammy Awards on Sunday.
It was unlikely that the rapper-producer team from Seattle would walk away empty handed – with seven nods they were among the most for any artist – but their win for rap album will undoubtedly spark a firestorm among rap critics.
The two emerged as outliers with a pop-oriented brand of rap informed as much by indie rock as it was traditional hip-hop. Their single, “Thrift Shop,” a witty critique of rap’s penchant for designer duds, exploded on radio and went on to become the bestselling digital song of 2013 – even more impressive was the single being the fourth release from an independently released album.
But as the hits kept coming, and they did, so did the criticism, with many rap fans dismissing them as gimmicky pop acts despite Macklemore working on his rise from underground rap to mainstream star for more than a decade.
“The Heist” isn’t solely filled with arena-ready pop-rap anthems. The poignant “Same Love,” with its timely pleas for equality, broke new ground in a genre long tolerant of homophobia, while “Wings” had the audacity to explore the consumerism of sneaker culture fueled mostly by hip-hop.
Regardless, the duo’s win is a major coup for indie, DIY hip-hop. Lewis’ lush productions fuel the album, but he takes DIY to new heights by recording, engineering and mixing all of their music and directing all of their visuals.
The album earned the duo multiple nominations including song and album of the year.
A hip-hop duo hasn’t won for rap album since Outkast’s landmark double album, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” in 2004.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis faced sturdy competition as a slew of massive albums made the cut. The duo were up against Kendrick Lamar’s striking debut and efforts from heavyweights Jay Z, Kanye West and Drake. Last year Drake’s critically acclaimed sophomore effort, “Take Care,” won.
The Grammys are determined by about 13,000 voting members. The eligibility period for nominated recordings was Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013. The 56th awards are being held at the Staples Center and telecast on CBS. They are broadcast live except for viewers on the West Coast. The latest headlines and any breaking news will be posted here on Pop & Hiss.
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