Apparently, a reckoning is coming, and her name is Belcalis. By now, those who follow pop culture should be used to the fact that the Grammys will almost always disappoint by wildly subverting expectations. Some might go so far as to say that the award has lost its prestige due to the show’s recent celebration of less than worthy offerings. In 2015, Beyoncé’s self-titled masterpiece losing Album of the Year to Taylor Swift’s 1989 started an onslaught of think-pieces about how the award show has historically rewarded commercially successful and pop-leaning acts over critically acclaimed ones from more urban genres like rap, hip-hop, and R&B, citing racism as the biggest of many causes. In the years since, that conversation has both expanded to other mediums and sparked critical discussions that are more specific to rap and hip-hop culture. In the case of the Grammys, in recent years it seems the show has rarely gotten it right when it comes to nominating and awarding artists, songs, and writers that the general public (or at the very least, Black Twitter) have heralded as making the most impact. This year was no different.
Because of recent beef, the biggest trending topic of this year’s Grammy nominations announcement was the observation that self-proclaimed rap queen, Nicki Minaj garnered no nominations while rival fem-cee Cardi B earned herself five, including ones for Rap Album of the Year and Album of the year. Nicki naysayers were quick to turn to Twitter, many suggesting the rapper’s antics since the release of her album, QUEEN, may have been the cause of her karmic lack of recognition by the Grammy voters. It’s almost as if after months of yelling, “TO FREEDOM!” and giving out c***sucker of the day awards on the radio, some might give pause before handing her an award because it would potentially mean giving her yet another platform to berate someone. Others pointed out that the Grammy snub paired with her back to back losses of BET’s award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist (the most recent of which she lost to Cardi B after Remy Ma ended her 7-year reign) may be a sign that the firm grasp she’s had on the top female rapper spot might be relaxing.
On the other side of the table, Cardi detractors were quick to point out that this is not the first time that the Nicki hate train has stopped at the Grammy station. Barbz and other rap enthusiasts were quick to retort that Grammy wins don’t necessarily mean lasting relevance and cite Bad Boy poster child Lil Kim as a prime example. A common argument Lil Kim fans employ is the rapper’s nominations and shared win for her collaboration on Lady Marmalade; a weak argument at best seeing as she’s been nominated six times and her only win is shared with two of the greatest singing white women in the world, a super producer, and…Mya. The comparison is potentially prophetic seeing as the Queen B is one in a long line of many who’s feud has failed to diminish the rise and sustained success of Nicki Minaj. In fact, what has Lil’ Kim done lately?
It should be noted that there’s yet to be a conversation about how every year the collective consensus is that the Grammy voters are out of touch but as soon as nominations incite fans to take up arms at the expense of the two biggest female rappers out at the moment, they somehow regain legitimacy. How can the Grammys both be overrated for snubbing albums like Everything Is Love and Scorpion or not including any rappers in the Best New Artist category but hold so much weight in the context of what’s become a very tiring rap beef?
Despite claims that this year’s announcements somehow mean that the space for female rappers is expanding, unless you count Beyoncé for her flows on Everything Is Love (which you definitely can, despite the album not receiving ANY rap nominations) Cardi B is the only female rapper nominated for any Grammy this year. At worst the state of mainstream female rap is still one big butt, comeback, or ex-stripper at a time and at best it only consists of Nicki Minaj and whoever she’s feuding with this week but either way, it’s a sad day for the culture when white men have won more rap Grammys than black women.
The inclusion of acts like Mac Miller, Post Malone and even Cardi B at the expense of Nicki, J. Cole and others is further commentary that black artists with consistent critically acclaimed work are being looked over for artists whose work (and skin tones) are more palatable to whiter audiences. Like anything else that black culture has discovered and support long before it was mainstream, Cardi B has been appropriated by white people and if I’ve learned anything from Eminem winning awards for making the same I-love-my-daughter-and-hate-my-mother music for last 20 years it’s that whiteness is going to find a way to win and right now, that comes in the form of Cardi B being nominated for five Grammys.