The Grammys’ Rap Category Reform Will Hopefully Be a Good Thing

Also, this year the awards are transitioning to using online voting for all categories.
June 15, 2017, 12:00pm

Music's Biggest Night™ is 60 this year, and to drag the ceremony into its seventh decade (and, like, the present), the Recording Academy has decided to introduce online voting for all categories. In their official statement, they say that they hope that "this transition will provide greater flexibility for touring artists, eliminate the possibility of invalid ballots, and protect further against fraudulent voting." Hear hear. It's a move that follows in the footsteps of a number of other ceremonies (the Brits, for example, has been doing online voting for some time now), and it makes sense that the music world's most famous awards show should be brought into the 21st century. *weeps in the knowledge that Switzerland and Estonia use internet voting in their actual elections to tackle low turnout*

More interesting, however, is the additional news that voting specifically in the rap categories has undergone some reform. This year, a Nominations Review Committee will be introduced for all the rap nominations. In their statement, the Recording Academy describe the nominations review process as "an additional round of checks and balances to eliminate the potential for a popularity bias that puts emerging artists, independent music, and late-year releases at a disadvantage."

Basically this means that a group of actual experts will have the job of ensuring that nominations are legit, that the best people are being recognised, and that major label cash isn't ruling over artistic accomplishment in the categories. This, in turn, probably means that we'll stop seeing nominations and wins for people like Iggy Azalea and fucking Macklemore, because yes, though they're commercially popular, they can't really be said to represent the absolute best of what the sprawling, fascinating rap genre has to offer.

It's interesting that the move has been brought in following last year's big wins in the rap categories for Chance the Rapper, an independent artist. Perhaps upon seeing the good press the Grammys got after those very well-deserved wins, they were keen to build on the progress. After high profile criticism from credible artists like Frank Ocean and Kanye West, a committee of experts will only improve the rap awards further, hopefully making them a genuine marker of excellence (rather than of popularity), and hopefully meaning that those who are innovating at the highest level will get the respect they deserve.

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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)