Rap and, more recently, R&B superstar Drake has withdrawn his Grammy nominations this year. He was nominated in two categories – Best Rap Album for Certified Lover Boy and Best Rap Performance for the Right Said Fred indebted track, “Way 2 Sexy” (featuring Future and Young Thug).
Drake decided along with his management group, Variety reports, and the Recording Academy has agreed to honor his request. Instead of adding nominees to the categories, the Grammy for those categories will only have four nominees.
Ballots were sent out already, so that might be the only reason the categories aren’t getting new nominees. While artists can simply not submit music for consideration with the Grammys, it’s pretty unprecedented to ask to remove a nomination after the fact.
Drake has been a vocal critic of the Recording Academy’s failure to recognize Black artists properly. His hit “Hotline Bling” took home awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance, although it would be more accurate to recognize the song in R&B or pop categories.
“I’m apparently a rapper even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song,” he said. “The only category that they can manage to fit me in is a rap category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past, or because I’m Black, I can’t figure out why.”
He previously asked if the Grammys should be replaced with “something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come.” Last year, Drake took issue with chart-topper the Weeknd being entirely snubbed by the association a year ago.
He took to his Instagram story to let people know how upset he was.
“I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artist that exist now and the ones that come after,” he said. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up but they just won’t change their ways. The other day I said @theweeknd was a lock for either album or song of the year along with countless other reasonable assumptions and it just never goes that way. This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up overtime and pass on to the generations to come.”
He purposefully didn’t submit his 2017 album More Life even though it qualified. That same year, rap artist Jay-Z was nominated for 8 Grammys and won zero. In 2019, he won Best Rap Song for God’s Plan and had his mic cut off when he called out the awards as valueless.
“We play an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said. “You already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if they’re singing in your hometown. You’re already winning, you don’t need this right here.”
The Grammy association seems aware of the issue and is slowly making some adjustments, although it may be too little too late for artists who have long found the institution irrelevant to modern music. For example, it recently expanded the nominees from eight to 10 in the top four categories and eliminated secret nomination review committees.
The nebulous Best Urban Contemporary categories are now Best Progressive R&B after years of complaints that the category had no actual meaning musically and functioned as a means to pigeonhole Black artists. In addition, Best Rap/Sung Performance is now Best Melodic Rap Performance.
Drake is one of the most popular artists of the modern era and has few peers in terms of streams and hit albums. His withdrawal undermines the Recording Academy’s authority could have some ripple effects on how the ceremony is received this year.