Snubbing Black Artists Like Megan Thee Stallion Is A Tale As Old As The Grammys Themselves

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Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion

Billie Eilish was one of this year's big winners at the 2021 Grammy Awards, and she made sure to use her acceptance speech to send a strong message about the ongoing problem of deserving Black artists often being overlooked and unrecognized for their work.

Eilish, 19, cleaned up at the Grammys last year, winning in five of the six categories for which she had been nominated, including the coveted Record of the Year for "Bad Guy." Last night she added two more trophies to her shelf, as she and her brother Finneas brought home "Best Song Written for Visual Media" for James Bond theme song "No Time To Die" and, once again, Record of the Year for "Everything I Wanted."

In her acceptance speech for the show closing Record of the Year award, Eilish shouted out fellow nominee Megan Thee Stallion who did win Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for "Savage Remix," as well as Best New Artist — saying she was embarrassed to have won what she believes should have been Megan's Grammy.

"This is really embarrassing for me," Eilish began. "Megan, girl. I was gonna write a speech about how you deserve this but then i was like, there's no way they're gonna choose me. I was like, it's hers. You deserve this. You had a year that, i think, is untoppable. You are a queen. I want to cry thinking about how much i love you. You're so beautiful. You're so talented. You deserve everything in the world. I think about you constantly. I root for you always. You deserve it, honestly. Genuinely, this goes to her. Can we just cheer for Megan Thee Stallion please?"

The moment reminded many viewers of Adele dedicating her Album Of The Year Grammy for "Hello" to Beyonce in 2017, saying Queen Bey should have won for "Lemonade" and praising the importance of Beyonce’s work.

And while we love to see white artists using the Grammys stage to celebrate their Black colleagues these moments do call into question the way Grammys seem to consistently pass over Black artists who are more than well-deserving of the accolades.

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Like most awards shows, the Grammys have a long history of snubbing Black artists.

In the 63 years since the Grammys' 1957 inception, only ten Black artists have won Album of the Year.

These latest instances of white artists using the Grammys stage to amplify what Black artists have been calling out offstage confirm the fact that far too many questions remain unanswered about the lack of inclusion of Black artists at the highest status levels within the entertainment industry.

Talk of this problem dates back to some of the earliest Grammy award ceremonies.

In 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears won for their album of the same name, despite many believing the albums by fellow nominees Isaac Hayes, Sly and the Family Stone and The Temptations should have won.

In 1990, the award went to Bonnie Raiit for "Nick of Time," while Janet Jackson's generation defining album “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” failed to even be nominated.

The long list of Black artists and their groundbreaking albums that didn't even receive nominations also includes Michael Jackson, “Off the Wall” (1980), Prince, "1999" (1982), TLC, “Crazy Sexy Cool” (1996), Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2012), and Beyoncé, “Beyoncé” (2015), among many, many more.

Understandably, Black artists have become increasingly vocal about the lack of diversity among Grammy winners.

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Here are just some of the Black artists who have called out the Grammys for neglecting their work in recent years.

The Weeknd

One of 2021’s most notable snubs was The Weeknd, who’s double-platinum and highly acclaimed album "After Hours" didn’t receive a single nomination, even though his single, "Blinding Lights," spent an entire year in the US Top 10.

After the snub, The Weeknd announced that he would be boycotting the Grammys and would no longer submit any of his future work for consideration.

He also called out the lack of transparency in the voting process as the Grammys has never revealed who determines the nominees and winners in its categories.

Drake

Drake has been vocal about how the Grammys both neglects and stereotypes Black artists. He called for the entire award show to be replaced "with something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come" after artists from The Weeknd to Lil Baby were left out of the lineup in 2021.

Drake’s own relationship with the award show has been tumultuous. In 2018, Drake refused to submit his album "More Life" for Grammys consideration after being frustrated that his single "Hotline Bling" won best rap song in 2017 despite not featuring any rap.

He felt this was a prejudice against Black artistry saying at the time, “Maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m Black, I can’t figure out why.”

Tyler, The Creator

Tyler, The Creator had a similar gripe in 2020, when he won the award for Rap Album after several years of struggling to be considered for a trophy.

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He slammed the Grammys for persisting in including his genre-bending work and that of other Black artists in only the ‘Rap’ and ‘Urban’ categories rather than alongside similar work by white artists in the 'Pop' category.

He also stated the term ‘Urban’ is a “politically correct way to say the n-word,” arguing that the category diminishes Black art.

In 2021, the Grammys finally abolished the ‘Urban’ category completely as a result.

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On a positive note, this year was a good year for Black women who broke records at the Grammys.

While the award show does have a long way to go in order to better represent Black artists, there were some big wins for women of color that show times might slowly be changing.

We cannot call out the lack of diversity without celebrating the Black women who, despite the odds, continue to break barriers in music.

Tyler, The Creator’s calls for Black artists to be included across categories and genres were answered, at least to an extent, by Megan Thee Stallion's win for Best New Artist, Brittany Howard's win for Best Rock Song for "Stay High," and HER’s "I Can’t Breathe" taking home Song of the Year.

Megan Thee Stallion also ended 17 years of male dominance in the Best Rap Song category.

Beyonce became the most decorated female artist of all time, and shifted into second position in the list of most-awarded artists of all time, behind Hungarian-British conductor Georg Solti.

So at least that's something for now.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.