The Grammys have something of a habit of missing the mark, but this year they seem to have got it more or less right. SZA and Khalid and Lorde and Kendrick and Cardi B and Migos all have a good chance at winning awards next January, which is an accurate cross-section of the players who made 2017 less garbage than it could have been. But just because the current generation is being properly acknowledged for once doesn't mean the Grammys got everything right, and it doesn't mean the veterans are pleased with their treatment. Case in point: Q-Tip.
A Tribe Called Quest memorably performed at last year's Grammys, the only act that night that had the balls to call out famed slug-person Donald Trump on his travel ban and his still-mythical Mexican border wall. Their curtain call album We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service… was roundly acclaimed and was eligible for the Grammys this year, but was notably absent from all the rap categories. After tweeting "Fuck da Grammys!!!" (since deleted) Q-Tip posted a series of incensed videos to Instagram. On top of a jazz trumpet solo, he seems to vent about how the snub is disrespectful to the memory of dearly departed Tribe member Phife Dawg and to the group for having performed in such emotionally trying circumstances. The full speech is below in four parts:
Hip-hop has seen its fair share of generational tension this year but what Tip is angry about is the organization's failure to acknowledge legends in their own time. He has a point. Q-Tip cites Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin as members of a club of legends who were barely shown love in their lifetime by the Grammys, and his implied argument that ATCQ belongs among these ranks in terms of influence would probably find few detractors. The group was only nominated for four Grammys over the course of their two-decade-long existence and won zero, and the awards have made several infamous flubs in other categories. Eric Clapton won over Nirvana, Jethro Tull took the inaugural metal award over Metallica… The list goes on. In this regard, Q-Tip's frustrations are well-founded.
But maybe the Grammy voters decided that what was contemporarily acclaimed would have a chance to shine this year. Album of the Year nominees Melodrama, DAMN., and 4:44 were critical and commercial successes that tapped into the cultural pulse of 2017 and may end up resonating long past this decade. Then again, Lil Uzi Vert's zeitgeist-snatching "XO Tour Llif3" wasn't nominated for any award (Uzi himself got a Best New Artist nod seemingly as a form of consolation), despite being the kind of inescapable hit that usually guarantees at least a few entries in the rap field. Maybe history will vindicate Uzi, too, but by then this year'll probably be another chapter in The Grammys Getting It Wrong. They may have acknowledged albums that are relevant now but this particular snub proves they're still missing out in some fields. Two out of three, relatively speaking, isn't bad—better than nothing—but Q-Tip still has a point, and may continue to have one for some time.
Phil is on Twitter.