Cardi B is the first female rapper to win a Best Rap Album Grammy.
The 61st Grammy Awards sought to correct the wrongs of last year’s awards ceremony. The 2018 Grammys faced criticism for its lack of women winners and performers. Alessia Cara was the only one to receive a major prize, winning Best New Artist. But Cara aside, only 17 awards (out of a total of 86) went to women or female-fronted bands.
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who will be stepping down from the position this year, also made matters worse when he said the following after last year’s Grammys:
“It has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on an executive level, to step up.”
Portnow faced backlash for his comments and surely he must’ve received the memo. This year saw women a part of the Grammys at all capacities, from Michelle Obama‘s surprise appearance and Alicia Keys serving as the night’s host to entertaining and enthralling performances from Janelle Monae and Cardi B and a handful of women receiving awards in major categories.
For those that missed Janelle Monae’s full performance at the Grammys, here you go. https://t.co/Zz4iZ3icmj
— CRT (@StoryofEverest) February 11, 2019
Among them was H.E.R., who received the award for Best R&B Album, and Cardi B, who received the award for Best Rap Album.
Once she made her way to the stage to accept her award, Cardi offered a speech that was one of a handful of moments that felt pure among the banality one has come to expect of the Grammys.
“I can’t breath,” the Invasion of Privacy artist declared to husband Offset, as she tried her best to thank family and friends who helped make the moment into a reality. In recent years, the Grammys have been viewed with a cynicism that reflects artists’ disillusion with an institution that doesn’t actually have its pulse on contemporary music.
Still, there’s something about an artist that deserves to win a Grammy actually getting one, especially in a major category, that’s always a joy to see. Whether she won a Grammy or not, Cardi has already had a momentous year like no other. Sure, the Grammys aren’t shit — but in moments like this, where Cardi is simultaneously making history as the first female rapper to win the Best Rap Album award and having her bag fee increase overnight, it’s a reminder that there are moments of beauty to be had in this archaic ceremony called the Grammys.
Childish Gambino wasn’t present during the Grammys but he still won four out of the five awards he was nominated for. The artist received awards for Record and Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video, all for his song “This Is America.”
Like Cardi, Donald Glover also made history. He is the first rapper to ever win Song of the Year thanks to “This Is America.”
In Glover’s place, longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson accepted the award for Song of the Year.
“I just want to say creating music with Childish Gambino has been one of the greatest joys of my life. As a kid growing up in Sweden loving American music, I always dreamt of migrating here and working with brilliant artists like Donald Glover,” Göransson said. “I really wish he was here right now because this is his vision and he deserves this credit. No matter where you’re born or what country you’re from you connect with ‘This Is America.’ It speaks to people, it connects right to your soul, it calls out injustice, it celebrates life, and reunites us all at the same time.”
Göransson then thanked the rappers that are featured on “This Is America,” including 21 Savage, who was absent from the awards ceremony. The rapper, who was nominated for two Grammys, including Record of the Year for “Rockstar,” his collaboration with Post Malone, is currently being held without bond by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE has accused the rapper, who was born in the United Kingdom but moved to Atlanta at the age of seven, of overstaying his visa.
“21 Savage, he should be here tonight,” the producer said.
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) February 11, 2019
That Göransson was the only one who vocally said something about 21 Savage during the televised portion of the Grammys was surprising. Malone, who was present during the ceremony and performed “Rockstar,” didn’t acknowledge Savage’s absence. (He was seen wearing a shirt with the rapper’s name, which some assume he wore during his performance. But the shirt couldn’t be seen regardless.)
— Karen Civil (@KarenCivil) February 11, 2019
Other notable moments of the night came courtesy of Drake, who seemed to diss the Grammys while receiving the award for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan.”
“I want to take this opportunity while I’m up here to just talk to all the kids that are watching this, aspiring to do music,” Drake said. “All my peers that make music from their heart that do things pure and tell the truth, I wanna let you know we’re playing in an opinion-based sport not a factual-based sport. So it’s not the NBA where at the end of the year you’re holding a trophy because you made the right decisions or won the games.”
“This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people who might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say or a fly Spanish girl from New York or anybody else, or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis [Scott],” he continued. “But my point is you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
At that point, the broadcast cut to commercial but Drake’s latter comments seemed to address the Grammy’s issue with championing hip-hop, as well as artists of color, when it comes to its major categories.
“The fact of the matter is, we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world,” Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich told the New York Times. “When they don’t take home the big prize, the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad.”
Will the grammys get back in the good graces of the hip-hop community? Who knows. One thing is for sure though — no matter how talented she is, Jennifer Lopez shouldn’t have been able to lead an entire Motown tribute when actual Motown artists still walk this Earth and should be celebrated while they’re still here.