After a tumultuous week, the Grammys are once again being called out. This time by Sean "Diddy" Combs, who addressed recently ousted Recording Academy CEO and president Deborah Dugan’s allegations that the Grammys are rigged. He did this by calling out the Grammys’ historic lack of respect for hip-hop and Black artists.
At the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala on Saturday, Diddy was given the Recording Academy’s Industry Icon Award. His emotional speech reportedly went on for an hour, per The Los Angeles Times, and ended with an appeal to his fellow members of the Academy.
“Because we’re all family, I have to be honest,” Diddy said. “The last few days I’ve been conflicted. I’m being honored by the industry I love, the family that I love. But it’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not just about the Grammys. This is discrimination and injustice everywhere at an all-time high.”
Diddy specifically talked about the pain the Grammys have caused hip-hop artists who have been overlooked time and time again. “Every year, y’all be killing us, man,” he said. “Man, I’m talking about the pain.” He talked about how there isn’t “an even playing field” for hip-hop and never has been. “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be,” Diddy said. “So right now, this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing been going on.”
The numbers support this. Only two proper hip-hop albums have won Album of the Year in 62 years: Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill in 1999 and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/Love Below in 2004. A Black artist hasn’t won Album of the Year since Herbie Hancock in 2008 and Bruno Mars is the only non-white artist to win the top prize in the 2010s.
Despite its popularity, hip-hop is too often left out of the four major categories like Album of the Year. Instead, rap is relegated to genre-specific categories that don’t even make the telecast. It’s why artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Frank Ocean have declined their invitations to the show in recent years. Last year, after turning down a chance to perform, Drake won Best Rap Song and showed up to call out the Grammys’ lack of hip-hop representation in his speech, which was cut short.
It’s not just music, though, Diddy pointed out — Black artists are overlooked in film, too. This year, only one performer of color, Cynthia Erivo for Harriet, was nominated in the acting categories at the Oscars. “And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us,” Diddy said. “And that stops right now.”
Diddy proposed that the Grammys have a year “to get this shit together. We need the artists to take back control. We need transparency. We need diversity,” he said. “This is the room that has the power to make the change that needs to be made.”
Last year, the Grammys announced a task force on inclusion and diversity that would “identify the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities throughout the music industry and, specifically, across Recording Academy operations and policies.” As this week has shown, though, so much still needs to be done. Diddy wants to make sure that happens and is pushing other artists to help make sure it does.
“My goal used to be about making hit records. Now it’s about ensuring that the culture moves forward. My culture. Our culture. The Black culture,” he said. “And for me to be worthy of receiving an Icon Award, I have to use my experience to help make change.”
Diddy ended his speech by shouting out a few albums he loves, including Beyoncé’s Lemonade, an iconic record from a Black artist that didn’t win Album of the Year.