remember in check the rhime when tip said, “record company people are shady?” and what are the grammy’s but a swagger show for and by these very same executives. i watched the 2011 grammy’s with a keen eye for how the committee would avenge kanye west’s black breach of taylor swift’s white space last year. recall that he wasn’t the first, ol’ dirty bastard (r.i.p) took the mic from shawn colvin in 1998. and what did this lens reveal? the 2011 grammy’s were defined by blockbuster brown and black performances highly encased in white country. i got the chills watching monae rip cold war with mars and b.o.b tight on her musical backup.
this ascendant performance was encased on both sides by white country, the effect being a dilution of the reality of black, brown and hip hop power in the shaping of worldwide popular culture.
beyond the well known 2002 boycott of the grammy’s by Jay Z, there are many hip hop leaders (Public Enemy, Russel Simmons, 50 Cent, Salt-N-Pepa, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Kanye West) who have individually protested the grammy’s for being an arguably biased awards system. for example, hip hop and heavy metal both became award categories in 1998, but that year only the heavy metal awards were telecasted. to which Salt-N-Pepa curtly responded, “If they don’t want us, we don’t want them.” and did you notice how in the tribute montage, lena horne got but a half line, and guru didn’t even get a mention? but let me get down with the get down from last night.
my top 8 reflections on the 2011 grammys:
1. bruno mars rocked it in that black and white: the black and white screen contextualized mars in an era of classic crooners, most likely ingratiating him with whole new audiences (read: older folks), so it was a great business move. also, as i’m reflecting on the ceremonies, his segment stands out, because my mind sees it in that grainy black and white. i liked that shit. ooh, plus when he hit the ground on his knees! reminded me of the raw hunger of “dance india dance” contestants, who are consistently willing to scratch till the blood comes.
2. janelle monae gave a performance of a lifetime. wow. and i loved how the three of them, bruno mars, monae, and b.o.b worked together, giving each other mad love and space for, “nothing on you.” and to see how she shone later in her solo set, with mars on the drums. wow. inspiring!
3. the great disses: fuck you was the defining song of 2010, and ceelo green should’ve won song of the year, but we’re talking about an antebellum industry so hey. also, drake should’ve got new artist, hands down. this was the convo in the room at my girls place in fort greene: “esperanza spalding, you ever heard her stuff?” “nah, you?” “nah, i’m saying, who is that?” with all due respect to this jazz artist, because spalding has indeed paid dues, but drake was a game changer.
4. um: gwen paltrow, she did her thing, but all the industry machinery in the world cannot cement her transition from movies to music. she has work to do to actually ingratiate herself in the hearts of us listeners. i’ve yet to be convinced that she’s singing because she has to, and not just because she’s searching for a second childhood. ouch.
5. lady gaga: go girl, i’m so glad she shouted out whitney houston, because we have seen what this industry will do to take down powerful women till they have nothing left but their crazy. i also loved her black outfit, with the pronounced ass and titties, a nice commentary on the auction block like obsession, fueled by the industry, over women’s parts.
6. good tv: now that was good tv, even thought all the sea of whiteness got annoying. they should have a grammy’s weekly show, ala star search.
7. fuck you and the infantilization of america: why is it that we could be at war all over the world, and we can’t say fuck you. ass and titties we can say. fuck, we can’t. why? it’s so fake. i wonder if ceelo chose the muppets as a way of easing the fears of white america vis-a-vis a talented black man crooning, fuck you with such class.
8. the aftermath: as a west coaster, i was glad to see dre. even tho pac. even tho. dre helped lead a whole movement of west coast rap, and we need that balance. hip hop ain’t the same when only one region dominates, it’s simply not as interesting. so nice to eminem reach out for dre. and usher reach back to bieber. the collaborations we witnessed were classic. and man, can you imagine playing guitar backup for bob dylan? you KNOW those dudes were geeked.
all in all, i loved watching the grammy’s. and i hate seeing how american popular culture remains so virulently segregated. there shouldn’t have to be a separate latin grammys. if the demographics of america were ever to be truly repped on the grammy screen, we would see so many more artists from so many more places, including india. and that would be something to see. true integration, reflective of how america actually is.
last but not least….
happy valentines day lovelies! i know, it’s a day invented by the corporations and hallmark to dominate consumers, blazayblah. no matter how political i get, i can’t forget where i came from, candy grams, little pink and purple cards for the whole damn class, and heart shaped mylar balloons. i believe andre 5000 when he say, every day is the 14th!