By Josh Weiner
They may have awarded him 21 times over the years, but Jay-Z has never quite been on such golden terms with the Recording Academy. Way back in 1999, he refused to attend the Grammy Award ceremony– despite winning Best Rap Album in absentia that evening for Vol 2… Hard Knock Life— on the grounds that the academy had denied hip-hop artists their “rightful respect.” He was particularly in fumes that DMX had failed to secure a single nomination for either of his two hit records from 1998.
It took another five years for Jay-Z to attend the Grammys, when he joined future wife Beyonce onstage to perform their hit collaboration, “Crazy in Love.” Before long, though, he had resumed his boycott, eventually going on a six-year hiatus from the Grammys. “Too many major rap artists continue to be overlooked,” he has said, expressing feelings of discontent that are widely shared.
This year, there seemed to be some signs of hope, as Jay-Z had been nominated eight times for his new album, 4:44, and was spotted alongside Queen Bey. Yet Mr. Carter did not make his way to the stage a single time, either to accept an award or to actually perform any of his latest hits.
According to Ken Ehrlich, the show’s executive producer, the rapper felt more comfortable sitting in the seats than out onstage on this particular evening. Perhaps he simply wanted the night off.
“He basically said he’d rather not [perform],” said Ehrlich. “He wanted to come out and enjoy the show.” In Ehrilch’s view, this decision was warranted, based on how much the rapper has done for the recording industry over the years.
All the same, Jay-Z seems to has let go of his ill will towards the Recording Academy, suggesting that they should not be faulted for expressing their honest opinions at the ballot boxes.
“I realized that art is super-subjective,” he admitted at a pre-Grammy gala. “The Academy, they are human like we are and they are voting on things they like…. What happens at the Grammys, it is what it is.”
He did, however, feel that it would be fitting to be present for the many fine performances which the Grammy Awards featured this year, including his fellow MC’s Kendrick Lamar, Logic and Childish Gambino.
“We are seeing the most incredible artists stand on that stage and we aspire to be that,” Jay-Z acknowledged. “And so I was like, ‘I have to be there.’”
If that’s what it takes for Jigga Man to make his way back to the Grammy Awards, then so be it– even if he chooses to leave some of the younger performers in the game more of the limelight.