For the 15th straight year, albums made by musicians in the rap genre, the most dominant musical movement of the past three decades, came up short in the Grammy Awards’ biggest category, album of the year.
Instead, Nashville singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves earned a victory Sunday night for her highly esteemed album, “Golden Hour.” She won against rap albums including Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy,” Drake’s “Scorpion,” Post Malone’s “Beerbongs and Bentleys” and “Black Panther: The Album.”
Those who follow the ceremony shouldn’t be surprised. Hip-hop’s history with the Grammy Awards has been tense since the genre was born, and the criticisms have piled up over the decades. Rap albums have been crowned best album only twice. This year Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino declined requests to perform.
Drake, in fact, declared in his acceptance speech that future rappers looking for validation from the Grammys are doing it wrong.
“You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you are a hero in your hometown,” Drake said, adding later, “You don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
Still, the 61st Grammys saw the most ever rap contenders for album of the year. Four of the eight nominees in the category (expanded this year from five) were rap albums. Also nominated were “By the Way, I Forgive You” by Brandi Carlile, H.E.R.’s self-titled debut and Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer.”
Skeptics who doubted that a rap album would win had history on their side: The last time one won was 2004, when OutKast’s “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” landed the award. Lauryn Hill made history with the first-ever hip-hop album of the year for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1999 — a victory that host Alicia Keys noted before announcing Musgraves as the victor.
Since MC Hammer’s “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’Em” competed in 1991 as rap’s first-ever album of the year nomination — he lost to Quincy Jones’ “Back on the Block” — the genre’s been a statistical nonstarter.
More than two dozen rap albums, including the Fugees’ “The Score,” Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” Nelly’s “Nellyville,” three Kanye West albums and just as many Lamar projects have been up for the night’s highest honor.