Black Artists Take Grammys By Storm

Beyonce Knowles, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, and Outkast will beleading the pack at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards withsix nominations each, proving that hip-hop and R&B are twomajor forces to be reckoned with in the music industry. Will theGrammy Awards have the same impact on Black college students comeFebruary 8?

Missy Elliott and 50 Cent are tied with fivenominations each. The two will go head to head in the best rap songand best rap album categories. Erykah Badu, an R&B artist whohas kept a relatively low profile for the past year, has snaggedfour nominations, including R&B album of the year for her CDWorldwide Underground. The big news this year, however, is not howmany nominations Black artists have received, but rather thecategories in which these nominations have been received.

Hip Hop and R&B are well represented inthe top four Grammy categories of record of the year, album of theyear, song of the year, and best new artist. Three of the fivenominees for record of the year are Black artists: Beyonce withCrazy in Love, Blackeyed Peas with Where is the Love?, and Outkastwith Hey Ya!

Missy Elliott is among the contenders foralbum of the year for Under Construction, along with Outkast forSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below. Luther Vandross will be thespokesperson for traditional R&B on Grammy night when hecompetes for song of the year with his single Dance with MyFather.

The best new artist category is dominated byBlack artists this year with rapper 50 Cent, reggae sensation SeanPaul, and R&B songstress Heather Headley. Black artists areeven getting recognition in the best pop collaboration category:Christina Aguilara featuring Lil Kim for Can’t Hold Us Down,and Sting featuring Mary J. Blige for When I Say Your Name.

This year’s show, which airs February 8at 8 pm on CBS, will be very different from the Grammy Awardsdating fifteen years back. Back in 1989 rap artists Will Smith,Salt-N-Pepa, and LL Cool J boycotted the show after learning thatthe brand new Rap Performance category would not be aired on thelive televised broadcast. The Metal category, however, which wasalso formed in 1989, was part of the live show. This was hip-hop inits infant stage- the youngster not quite old enough to sit at thegrown-ups table. However, hip-hop is all grown up now, and takingthe awards show that once shunned it by storm.

Rap now has its own field with six categories,including best female and male solo performances, best performanceby a duo or group, best collaboration, best song, and of course,best album. The R&B genre also has a slew of categories to callits own, including best female and male vocal performances, bestperformance by a duo or group with vocals, best traditional vocalperformance, best urban/alternative performance, best song, bestalbum, and best contemporary album. Is all of this exposure reallyreaching its core audience? Now that hip-hop and R&B haveofficially carved their niche in the Grammy world, will youngAfrican Americans be willing to tune in and stay seated for theshow?

“I wasn’t planning on it,”says John Chambers, a sophomore electrical engineering major atHoward University. “I didn’t even know that so manyBlack artists were being nominated for the big categories. I justfigured [the academy] would just overlook them like they alwaysdo.”

Unfortunately, Chambers is not the onlystudent who will be opting for another network station besides CBSon Grammy night.

Crystal Skinner, a sophomore at PrinceGeorge’s Community College, admits “I will not bewatching, because the winners are already decided before the show,so my tuning in makes no difference. I think it’s great thathip hop and R&B is finally getting the respect it deserves, butI’ll just catch the results on the radio.”

“If Blacks don’t tune in,”argues Sefanit Befekadu, a freshman finance major.”They’ll stop showing our artists and categories. Wehave to show our support, and tune in in mass numbers.”

Befekadu is planning a Grammy get-togetherwith a few of her close girlfriends, reserving Sunday night not forstudying, but for Beyonce. “I don’t think it’sthat big of a deal to most college students, but for me it’sgoing to be a big night . . . and hopefully it’ll be evenbigger for the Black artists nominated.”