It really came as no surprise that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won Best Rap Album at the 56th annual Grammy Awards. They took home awards in the rap categories at the American Music Awards, BET Awards, Billboard Music Awards and MTV Music Video Awards, and, to put it mildly, the Recording Academy really has no idea what it's doing when it comes to determining who will take home hip-hop's top trophies. Just ask Kanye.
So why did Macklemore win, and not Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City"?
Well, first, because hip-hop is a genre that Grammy voters don't understand, nor care to understand. Nas, 2Pac and Biggie never won Grammys, and there's no excuse for something like that. In general, the Grammy system is very flawed, with voters having a say in categories that they have no understanding of or experience in. Best Rap Album wasn't added until 1996, and since its inception, voters have just checked off on whatever is the most mainstream, highest-selling record that year.
Second, because Macklemore is white. The people casting the Grammy votes are often as estranged from the content and reality of most hip-hop records as can be, and so they default to the safe choice: the white guy. Even Macklemore understands his white privilege, which he made very clear back in 2005 on his song "White Privilege." "Where's my place in a music that's been taken by my race? / Culturally appropriated by the white face / And we don't want to admit that this is existing / So scared to acknowledge the benefits of our white privilege," he spits. I don't know if I would go as far as to say that hip-hop is being whitewashed -- that's a whole other debate -- but there is no denying willful ignorance.
However, that doesn't excuse the vulgarities that have been spewed at Macklemore in response to his victory. He wasn't the one that voted, and he certainly can't help that he is white. Macklemore has made it very clear that he believes Lamar was robbed, and wishes it had been his friend at the podium instead. You can't ask for much more from the guy than that. All anger and disappointment should be directed at the Recording Academy.
I wholeheartedly believe that "GKMC" not only deserved to win Best Rap Album, but also Album of the Year. No other album was as solid track-by-track -- there isn't one song I would/could skip or cut. No other work captured the true essence of the "album" more, and what it means to craft a cohesive musical collection that is digestible to audiences of all backgrounds. "GKMC" isn't something you listen to because you're turnt up or things are getting loud, but rather because there is nothing we crave more than to be told a story that can double as a vicarious experience.
However, "The Heist" is still a fantastic record, and both Macklemore and K. Dot have done more amazing things for hip-hop over the past year and a half than the large majority of their peers. Macklemore is discussing issues like same-sex equality, a topic's acceptance that is long overdue when it comes to hip-hop.
And yes, that means Macklemore is a rapper. His music often has pop elements to it, but to call his music solely pop is incorrect. Pop is an ambiguous cloud that other genres tap into. There are many different styles and blends of hip-hop and such diversity is what keeps hip-hop interesting.
In the end, a Grammy award doesn't define an artist, an album or a genre. In regards to art, those trophies mean nothing at all. It's important to get the facts straight, but people will still be poppin' tags and shading under money trees for years to come.