By: Tom Cicero – Web Editor
The biggest surprise at last Sunday’s Grammy Awards, for me, had nothing to do with Taylor Swift, Beyonce or Jay-Z, but rather Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. More specifically Macklemore taking home four grammys while Lamar took home none. Now, I like Macklemore as much as the next guy, but his album “The Heist” pales in comparison to Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.” I think this win brings up a lot of issues regarding the music industry and the Grammys. For starters, though, I am going to try and break down why I think GDMC is one of the best hip-hop albums of the past decade if not longer.
What initially starts off as a sort of braggadocious album reminiscent of modern rappers lyric-wise, quickly turns into something so much more. Taken out of context, songs such as “Backseat Freestyle” or “Poetic Justice” may make the album seem like all the other generic rap being churned out by the 2chainz of the world. However, upon listening to the whole album you start to see the story that Lamar penned. This is an album that laments violence but in a way that lets you form your own conclusions. While other rappers, like Lupe Fiasco for example (who I also love), tend to beat their audience over the head with their messages, Lamar tells a tale about violence and where it left him, and that’s it. No beating over the head, no reiteration, he just tells the story and then the album ends. None of this is more apparent than in my favorite song on the album, as well as one of my favorites of all time “Sing About Me” in which Lamar says “Sometimes I look in the mirror and ask myself, am I really scared of passing away? If it’s today I hope I hear a cry out from heaven so loud it can water down the demons with the holy ghost ‘til it drowns in the blood of Jesus.” This line, for me, really sums up the entire album. Lamar paints such a hopeless situation for those caught in violence with this line and this song, and shows where violence will lead you in the end. If you haven’t checked this album out, I highly recommend it.
Now back to the issue at hand.
Like stated earlier, Macklemore’s “The Heist” is nowhere near as ambitious or powerful as GKMC. That’s not to say it’s a bad album, it’s not by any means, and the fact that Macklemore has some good messages his album is awesome, but “The Heist” lacks the narrative quality of GKMC, and, for me personally, is way too radio friendly and poppy. Also, Macklemore has the same problem Fiasco does, in that he likes to beat the audience over the head with his messages. Also, he tends to get super cheesy and comes off as trying too hard on various points of this album. Songs such as “White Walls” and “Gold” are particularly bad. This is not just my opinion, though. Critics and fans also agree that GKMC is a better album. On Metacritic, a site that accumulates review scores for things such as movies, music, videogames, and compiles them into one score, “The Heist” has a 74 out of a hundred with a user review score of 8. GKMC has a 91 out of a hundred with a user review score of 8.7.
So why did Macklemore win?
I believe for a couple of reasons. First, any real music fan will tell you the Grammy’s aren’t the most credible source when determining quality music. I get that music is subjective, but when 2chainz is up for rap album of the year, you know something is off. When you have Bruno Mars and Pink up for various awards, you know something is off. When you have Imagine Dragons beating out LED ZEPPELIN and DAVID BOWIE, YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS OFF. Ahem, excuse me. Now, I get it these awards are catered to a certain audience, but should we really be rewarding such generic music? Something like Pink or Bruno Mars I can understand. They make harmless generic music, but at least they have good messages (sort of). But promoting someone like 2chainz? Is that really what we want young people (who make up a large demographic of Grammy viewers) listening to this?
The second issue is how the winner is chosen. The group of people who picks the awards is called the “National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences” and are totally anonymous, so it’s impossible to know their reasoning behind the choice. The question is, what makes them the authority on this, and why do we trust them?
The most prominent and controversial issue, however, is because Macklemore is a clean-cut All-American looking guy. Lamar is by no means unattractive, but based on his music and his image, he is not the American, white-picket fence, family-friendly choice. It had nothing to do with the content of their music. Macklemore dresses in a real clean, hipster sort of way. Lamar dresses in a much more casual way and some may even argue sloppy. Macklemore talks in a distinctly American way, while Lamar talks in a way more akin to where he was raised (Compton). The list goes on and on. I believe the fact that Lamar was nominated was just to appease certain viewers. Having a rap album of the year without GKMC on it would have discredited the Grammy’s completely.
I believe Lamar winning would have made a large majority of viewers uncomfortable. People would have made assumptions based on the way he dressed and the way he talked, and they would have been upset. They would have heard Lamar’s music, listened to the opening few tracks, and probably been offended by the excess use of profanities and loud beats. I firmly believe this award was given based solely on appearances, and not on the merit of the artists.
Macklemore was the safe choice, Lamar was the right one.