Historically, the Juno Awards have treated rap music like Justin Bieber treats mop buckets. For proof, look no further than the marginalization of the award for “Rap Recording of the Year".
One memorable moment from the Junos was back in 1998, when the rap trio known as Rascalz refused to accept their award for “Best Rap Recording” (the title of the award at the time). They protested the organizers’ decision to exclude the rap, reggae and dance awards in the televised portion of the show, claiming it was racially motivated. The following year the rap award was presented during the main award ceremony, but has never been presented during the televised broadcast since. The memory of the Rascalz historical decision to stand up for their rights at the Junos will never be forgotten.
The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) has treated rap music like a leper in its midst. CARAS is the organization that has administered the Juno Awards ceremony since 1975. Even though it’s 2014, there is racial discrimination towards “black music”, but pigeonholing rap music as a black genre is inaccurate considering how diverse Canadian hip-hop has become over the years.
When the Rascalz took a stand at the Juno Awards back in '98, it was definitely a wake up call for the Juno organizers, but didn’t make a tangible long-term impact. The organizers started to pay more attention to rap music, but only to a certain extent. The award for “Rap Recording of the Year” remains under-appreciated and doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The award for “Album of the Year” has never been awarded to a rap recording, but somehow Nickelback has won 12 Junos.
Even with Drake’s emergence as the biggest rap star in Canadian history, the rap award is still not televised. In 2010 his debut studio album “Thank Me Later” was the first Canadian rap album to go platinum in America. Drake also hosted the Junos in 2011 and won “Rap Recording of the Year” in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Classified, who is currently the second biggest Canadian rapper, has received significant accolades and even signed with Atlantic Records last year. In 2013 he won the rap award for his single “Inner Ninja” off his self-titled album and in July of 2013 the single reached quadruple-platinum status in Canada. The fact that he had one of the biggest singles and the Junos still didn’t acknowledge him during the televised portion of the program is unconscionable.
If Drake and Classified’s phenomenal achievements can’t make rap music relevant in the eyes of Juno organizers, what will? We as a country need to be more open-minded and embrace rap music, not ignore it. The CARAS and the Canadian music media must make a conscious effort to increase their promotion of rap music and push it to the forefront. Until that occurs, rap music will continue to fly under the radar at the Junos like an apparition.
Ian McBride is a writer living in Waterloo. He is on Twitter.