Rapper, singer, and actor Donald Glover (stage name Childish Gambino) made history at last night’s Grammy Awards, becoming the first hip-hop artist to ever win the ceremony’s award for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year for hit song This Is America.
It was a certifiable hit immediately following its release — due in large part to the associated music video, which featured countless elements of racial symbolism. This Is America also won the award for Music Video Of The Year.
The Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year Awards come after recent efforts by the recording academy to diversify its voting body, due in large part to criticism that it has failed to recognize major achievements by hip-hop artists during the genre’s nearly four decades in the spotlight.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Ken Ehrlich, who has produced the Grammy Awards since 1980, said, “We continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world.”
Most mainstream listeners are likely to agree; it is odd that it took this long for a rap song to win either of these major awards, especially considering the genre’s stranglehold on the Billboard charts.
Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Frank Ocean have all been frequently overlooked when it comes to winning some of the Grammys’ most prestigious awards. Lamar, for example, lost out on Album of the Year to Bruno Mars in 2018, but won the significantly more prestigious Pulitzer Prize for music just three months later.
For all the controversy and catharsis surrounding these two major wins, Glover himself doesn’t appear to put much gravity on the Grammy awards. He did not attend the ceremony, and reportedly refused an invitation to perform — as did Drake and Lamar.
In fact, in an interview with Fox News, This Is America co-producer Ludwig Goransson said he had attempted to call Glover after the ceremony but the call didn’t go through.
Still, it’s tough to see Glover’s wins as anything other than a step in the right direction. With the recording academy still looking to diversify its voting body, and an increasing number of people of color and women casting ballots, we are increasingly likely to see bigger wins from more diverse musicians in the future.
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