The 1989 Grammy Boycott & How It Helped Bring Hip Hop to the Forefront


In 1989, Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff won the very first Grammy for Best Rap Performance. However, the win was not televised. I guess the higher ups couldn’t imagine people wanting to see rappers being presented with an award. Or maybe they didn’t know what would happen if they actually let rappers get on stage and speak freely, without a script. Whatever the case was, the rap duo wasn’t havin’ it. They boycotted, along with tons of other legendary rappers and Hip Hop icons.

Salt N Pepa, Russell Simmons, and Flava Flav were just a couple of names that joined in. When asked why he boycotted, The Fresh Prince (now known as Will Smith) had this to say:

“What I really wanted to accomplish is, next year, or two years from now, the rappers would be able to have what I didn’t have.”

Apparently the protest worked because he and Jazzy performed on the show the following year.


Years later, the Grammys were still being shady, and newcomer Jay-Z, taking notes from his predecessors, decided to boycott the Grammys as well. He had a few things to say, upset that rap music wasn’t getting its proper respect.

“I am boycotting the Grammys because too many major rap artists continue to be overlooked. Rappers deserve more attention from the Grammy committee and from the whole world. If it’s got a gun, everybody knows about it; but if we go on a world tour, no one knows.”

I completely agree with Jay.  Often, rappers with great albums are overlooked and overshadowed by white rappers with more of a pop sound. Women in Hip Hop are ignored and highly sexualized. But that my friend, is a whole NOTHA post!

Now, in 2015, we’re seeing more rap artists perform, and a lot more being nominated. Hell, they even had LL Cool J host this year’s show! Things are happening, and it’s because people didn’t just shut up and take it. They spoke out. And we should be grateful. Though I don’t believe that Hip Hop NEEDS the recognition of the Grammys to flourish, I do believe that  recognition opens doors for so many other opportunities. Fresh Prince became Will Smith, Dr. Dre is making billions from Beats by Dre, and LL Cool J has starred in countless movies. The list goes on. People who may not have ever heard of these artists, now know them by name.

The bottom line is, representation of Hip Hop culture at the Grammys is something that is forever evolving. What the people over at the Grammys needs to accept is that Hip Hop and rap music isn’t going anywhere. It IS pop culture. I would argue that Hip Hop/rap music is the #1 most influential music of all time. So let’s give credit where credit is due. FYI: This year marks the first year in 25 years that a Rap category wasn’t televised.

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Like Jay-Z once said: “Hip Hop has done more for race relations than any political figure.”

Thank you to the Hip Hop pioneers that kicked off the revolution!


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