Day 78: "Abortion" – Tha Carter IV , 2011
The 2017 Grammy Award nominations came out this morning, and, for the most part, they are being received as much enthusiasm as anyone might muster for them: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Drake, and Chance the Rapper are all heavily mentioned, and Lil Yachty and D.R.A.M. could just skate off with a surprise rap win. And, as he has been many times before, Lil Wayne makes an appearance, twice, for his role on Chance the Rapper's song "No Problem." The song is nominated for both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance (the former being for songwriting).
Lil Wayne is no stranger to the Grammys: He's performed there on multiple occasions, of course, even in years when he wasn't, strictly speaking, nominated for a single Grammy. He's been nominated, prior to today, for 21 awards, and he's won four, all in the same year: Best Rap Album for Tha Carter III, Best Rap Solo Performance for "A Milli," Best Rap Song for "Lollipop" (beating himself), and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Swagga Like Us" (also beating himself). His iconic interview special with Katie Couric was also that year, 2009, as was his performance of "Tie My Hands" that I wrote about the other day.
At the same time, Lil Wayne is a perfect example of an artist from the post-Grammy generation: The Grammys are an institution of the recording industry, and, as such, they heavily reward songwriting and behind-the-scenes work, as well as a wide swath of genres that have very little to do with the pop cultural mainstream (which, don't get me wrong, is important!). But Wayne's discography, and certainly many of the highlights of it, largely exists outside of a traditional industry framework. He's famous for rapping over other people's beats, which is something the RIAA has a vested interest in not letting happen. Many of his best songs aren't for sale anywhere, which is also something the RIAA wouldn't approve of.
Rap has always rightly treated the Grammys with skepticism—how is it that Nas and Snoop Dogg have never won awards, for instance? The award show seems to be improving its response to the genre and adapting, for instance changing the rules to allow streaming projects like Chance's, which is how Wayne's nominations made it in this year. Yet Wayne's relevance, like that of many of his peers, is one that has never hinged on Grammy nominations. It would be cool to see him pick up another win, especially alongside guys as charming and deserving as Chance and 2 Chainz, but, as he told us in 2011, his Grammys are hardly how he's judging his own success: "I woke up this morning, dick rock hard / ashed my blunt in my Grammy Award," he raps on "Abortion." Wayne's greatness can't be evaluated by traditional rubrics, even when it occasionally overlaps with them. And if you have an issue with that, he has some more thoughts, at the end of the verse: "I just built a house on I Don't Give A Fuck Avenue."
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