From Umber.Life, Dec. 2018: Millions of Dollars, Millions of Fans, Hundreds of Accolades, Plenty of Trophies ? Does one Gramophone overshadow it?
Nicki Minaj, 2015 Grammy Awards
As Nicki Minaj celebrates her 36th birthday this past weekend, she had a lot to celebrate just in the last year alone. One thing she won?t be, however, will be any Grammy nominations. Once again, the Jamaica, Queens-born rapper was shut out, going an allegedly 0-for-19 with reports that each of her submissions for consideration did not make it through the Recording Academy?s nomination process. This will mark the third straight year she will not even receive consideration for a single award presented at the annual ceremony, and her 5th year going without one since her first nominations in 2011. Nicki has plenty of other accolades to surround herself with; like many other Grammy snubs, she has made a killing at lower-tier award shows, like the BET Awards (11 wins), BET Hip Hop Awards (8), American Music Awards (6), Billboard Music Awards (4, 23 nominations), and the British BMI Awards (30 across 3 separate shows); Nicki has garnered a whopping total of 105 trophies from these groups, which contrasts to her small impact at the industry?s gold standard ceremony. Why does she do so poorly there every winter? Is it industry bias, lack of quality music, bad luck of the draw?
The first thing I look at is what separates the Grammys from most other award shows ? the voting process. Other industry award shows rely simply on one or two-method voting, such as fan vote or yearly statistics, some decided by a boardroom of executives. These are conditions that permit an artist like Nicki to perform well ? which for most non-major award shows, is the purpose: unlike the EGOT (Emmy?s Grammys, Oscars, Tonys) ceremonies that are supported by large networks, institutions, and/or memberships, others can only survive if they gain ratings, and the more artists they can get to generate interest, the better they perform fiscally. The ?Anaconda? rapper has a large discography, heavy fanbase, and serves as a versatile performer with crossovers into EDM, R&B, Pop, and even Gospel; this makes her and non-Grammy shows a sensible combination.
On the other hand, The Grammys are produced by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences under more rigorous conditions. According to its website, about 350 experts alone screen each submission for the purposes of verifying that entries are eligible and which category they belong in, and this is before actual voting comes into play. Minaj?s mainstream popularity now stretches over a decade, starting with the 2009 mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty and her debut studio album Pink Friday, a record that received 3 Grammy nominations in 2012. Over that span the nomination and voting process has not gotten easier: there are now an estimated 20,000 entries per year, which has definitely grown since the rules were changed in 2017 to allow non-physical releasing and independent music like Chance the Rapper?s to receive consideration, severely largening the field of competition. Also, any musician or person (possibly even makeup artists and graphic designers) that gains credits on at least 6 commercial releases (singles, music videos, or ?their equivalent?) is eligible to be a voter (if they pay the dues to the Recording Academy) and they vote on up to 15 genre-specific categories out of 84 and for all 4 major award categories (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist), once during the nomination process and once in the final votes. In addition, this October alone the Grammys identified and invited at least 900 more potential members in addition to their already large member pool in attempts to further diversify and improve representation within the Academy. So, there?s plenty more people to compete against and more deciding who gets final consideration, meaning it is definitely harder to grab one of those statuettes.
Specifically for Nicki, being a black women in hip hop most likely will not better your chances with the Academy. The Recording Academy has a long documented history of snubbing both African-Americans and women ? from 1979 to 1989, hip-hop went unrecognized at the annual show; for a large portion of its existence, it was dominated by a white majority, reflected by the industry executives during that time (For example, screening experts have and are largely classifying most black artists ambiguously as ?urban contemporary?). Less than 20% of the major category awards have been awarded to black people, and even less if you remove the numerous won by Stevie Wonder. At the same time, 3 of the 10 most-awarded members of the Academy are black (Quincy Jones, Wonder, and Beyonc), so the Grammys are not completely segregated like the Oscars are accused of being, but they have struggled with at least appearing equitable for non-white artists, a driving force behind Adele?s on-stage declaration that her ?Album of the Year? award was more deserving by Beyonc.
I also consider it very important to focus on the fact that the voters? decisions don?t need to be justified or based on anything meaningful. So, for comparison, I looked at another institution that has struggled to come up with a concise and fair system of deciding its winners ? the NCAA. In Division I College Football, the championship is decided by the new College Football Playoff system, where a smaller board of voters that represent the many sections of the sport come together to choose the country?s best teams. While their determining factors still seem ambiguous to outsiders, most analysts believe their choices are mostly determined by factors such as strength of schedule (how strong the competition is), team?s head to head record and overall records, their general appearance (?the eyeball test?) and their resum (how they have compare to past competitors). Obviously, music and college football are far from similar, but they have two things in common ? there?s plethora of competition trying to earn very few spots within narrow parameters.
So if we put an artist like Nicki into a playoff-like system, you could hypothesize from the evidence she could have earned at least one. First, her ?resum?: 4 studio albums that have all charted in the Top 2 of the Billboard 200, R&B Albums, and Rap Albums Charts, the first 3 each having at least 2 Platinum RIAA certifications and Gold plaques from 3 other territories. By my count, across her 101 singles and additional charted songs, Nicki has collected a ridiculous 199 Platinum certifications across all territories; for comparison, Lady Gaga has 29 singles as a lead artist over 12 years that are responsible for 154. However, before this year GaGa has amassed 6 Grammys out of 19 nominations; Minaj is 0 for 10?3 nominations were received as a featured or co-artist (Ludacris? ?My Chick Bad? earned her first in 2011, one for appearing on 2012?s Loud by Rihanna, and ?Bang Bang? alongside Ariana Grande and Jessie J in 2015) ? meaning she was really considered for 7 as the main artist. Another booster to Nicki?s credibility would be her frequent collaborations with Grammy-winning musicians: she has released at least two records with Beyonc (22 wins out of 63 nominations), Kanye West (21 wins, 68 nominations), Alicia Keys (15?29), Eminem (15?44), Rihanna (9?33), Lil Wayne (5?26), will.i.am (7?27), Usher (8?23), Diddy (3?12), Drake (3?28), Chris Brown (1?16), and plenty of others with statuettes of their own. Next, in comparison to some of her contemporaries and predecessors ? Lauryn Hill (8 wins of 19 noms), Missy Elliott (5 for 22), Lil? Kim (1?6), Queen Latifah (1?7), and Eve (1?4) ? she is as decorated (if not more) than most of them except at the Grammys. She has more Billboard entries (101) than any other woman and all others in music history, except 3 men and 1 group. Her image and artistic style is difficult to consider, because what rappers are applauded for may not be appealing to non-hip hop voters; for example, Nicki gets into musical and personal spars often, but most of those conflicts came with music artists (Azealia Banks, Miley Cyrus, Remy Ma, Lil? Kim) also unsuccessful at the Grammys themselves (Mariah Carey and more recently, Cardi B, seem to be the exception). None of that has translated to a statuette.
Many music journalists have, and will continue to, proclaim this year?s Grammy pool as successful for women artists. They have cited Cardi?s 5 nominations, which brings her total to 7 so far in only her second year of consideration, means she is closing in on the amount Nicki has gained, but in 1/5th of the time. It?s important to remember that certain women and hip hop artists are continuing to face bias, and Nicki easily can be one. The likes of Beyonc have industry members and influential contemporaries advocating for them, publicly or not (see: Adele, Kanye West), but most within Nicki?s universe have either removed themselves from participating with the Grammys (Drake, Jay-Z) or have rarely been considered themselves (Birdman, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Ariana Grande, and Mike Will Made It, who are commonly associated with Minaj, are a combined 1-for-17 themselves). So while you could justify that Nicki is deserving of more consideration by the committee, don?t forget that there is never a justification for these choices ? the Recording Academy, a group still composed of white men fluent in non-hip hop categories, may simply not care for Nicki Minaj. It actually benefits them to do this ? the longer successful artists and their teams strive to get their elusive award, the longer they will participate in the system, pay their dues, and motivate fans into buying music and tuning in every year.
Nicki doesn?t need a Grammy ? again, she is highly decorated and rich beyond the attention winning one can bring, and her record number of sales and earnings can easily make up for the void this one achievement would leave. What?s more intriguing is that her inability to get one is more reflective of her reputation and image, which definitely hasn?t taken any recent strides in the positive: She quietly showed support for her brother before his conviction for child molestation, collaborated with another convicted child abuser, along with her recent admission she is dating a convicted rapist hasn?t earned her any support, but she remained openly arrogant through the outrage. This year?s beef with Cardi, social media attacks at Steve Madden, Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner (and their newborn, Stormi), reveals a clear, simple image: Nicki doesn?t want to generate positive appeal with anyone, really. I believe the question is the answer ? Nicki hasn?t won a Grammy because she?d rather be herself, which to fans, may be a strong, sexually-free black woman who is too real for Grammys or their voting majority; and to opponents, someone who self-imposes a manic, toxic environment around herself (cosigned by the likes of such as Remy and Safaree). We?re at the point where it?s no longer a question of if Nicki Minaj will ever win a Grammy, but if the window she has to do so has closed.
- The FADER ? 10 Reasons The Grammys Are As White As You Think They Are
- Billboard ? Nicki Minaj Makes History As First Woman With 100 Appearances on Billboard Hot 100
- Grammy.com ? GRAMMY Award Winners | Recording Academy
- Grammy.com ? Grammy Awards Voting Process
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- Newsweek ? Who Votes For The Grammys? Here?s How the Recording Academy Chooses Voters
- ESPN.com ? College Football Playoff selection committee?s deliberation topics
- The Undefeated ? Black Artists Get the Noms, but not Necessarily the Trophies, at Grammy Awards
- E News! ? Nicki Minaj is Now Feuding With Steve Madden
- Wikipedia ? Nicki Minaj Discography
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- Wikipedia ? List of Awards and nominations received by Nicki Minaj
- Discogs ? Nicki Minaj Discography
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