Sean Combs Blasts Grammy Awards: ‘Black music has never been respected by the Grammys’
“I say this with love to the Grammys, because you really need to know this. Every year, y’all be killing us, man. I’m speaking for all the artists here, producers, executives. The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it — and you just want an even playing field.”
While receiving an honor at a pre-Grammy ceremony Saturday night, rap superstar Sean Combs (who has also donned the professional monikers Puff Daddy and P. Diddy) spoke out against the ongoing lack of diversity at the Grammy Awards. This added to the larger cultural debate of representation for women and people of color in the entertainment industry.
50-year old Combs was receiving the Industry Icon Honor at Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammy gala on Saturday. While accepting the award, he delivered a 45-minute speech that chronicled his entire career, starting from the pivotal moment he received a record player for Christmas at age 5. He then addressed the “elephant in the room,” calling for more diversity at the Grammys and challenging the Record Academy: “You’ve got 365 days to get this s*** together.”
“I’m being honored by the industry that I love, the family that I love, but there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not just about the Grammys,” Combs confessed to an A-list crowd at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “There’s discrimination and injustice everywhere all the time. But there’s something I need to say to the Grammys… I say this with love to the Grammys, because you really need to know this. Every year, y’all be killing us, man. I’m speaking for all the artists here, producers, executives. The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it — and you just want an even playing field. In the great words of Erykah Badu: ‘We are artists, and we are sensitive about our s***.’ We are passionate. For most of us, this is all we got. This is our only hope.”
Vowing to turn his ambition to promoting “change” that would highlight more African American achievements in culture, Combs also pointed out that the Recording Academy is a nonprofit organization that is supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community: “they work for us. We have the power.”
Combs then dedicated his Industry Icon Award to several albums by black artists that he felt were robbed at past Grammy ceremonies, including Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Prince’s 1999, Kanye West’s Graduation, Missy Elliott’s The Real World, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, and classics by two artists who were present at Saturday’s gala, Nas’s Illmatic and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Although several of these albums secured their own Grammy nominations, even for Album of the Year, they had all failed to obtain that prestigious award.
The lack of inclusion for African Americans in the Grammy Awards is actually more glaring than say, the Oscars, because unlike the film industry: there is no shortage of African American artists and their art in the recording world. While the film industry ostensibly doesn’t finance movies for and about people of color out of fear that it’s too niche to sell to a major audience, African American artists and their music have often dominated music charts and record sales for decades now. Visibility is not a problem for them, when it comes to sheer commercial appeal; the revenue from customers speaks for itself. Why doesn’t this translate to awards like the Grammys?
Although the relevance of awards shows is debatable, there’s no doubt that it can be a commercial boon for artists if they are nominated or awarded. Ticket and record sales are known to increase for films/music, from customer interest. Regardless if awards shows actually reward artistic merit, it can raise the commercial and cultural profile of an artist.
It seems the Recording Academy has been listening to criticisms of lack of inclusion for women and people of color, in recent years, though. Just this Sunday, the day of the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, the Academy Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer, Harvey Mason Jr., made an announcement to remedy these issues by implementing 17 out of 18 initiatives suggested by its Diversity Task Force — which was formed in February 2018 and made up of distinguished individuals from outside the Academy, to take a hard, independent look at the Academy specifically and the music industry as a whole.
The 62nd annual Grammy awards will air on Sunday, January 26, 2020, on CBS at 8 P.M. ET.