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Hip-Hop News: Rumblings Of Discontent Hit The Grammys
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
2/6/2004 1:05:33 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Eminem, Missy Elliott, Ludacris and Sean Paul.

The broadcast of the 46th annual Grammy Awards will reflect the dramatic rise of hip-hop and R&B in American popular culture, but in some quarters, that recognition is seen as too little, too late. The strength of hip-hop can hardly be denied, but its treatment by the Grammys and its future in the music industry stir hot debates.

Although Black artists such as Missy Elliott, OutKast and Beyoncé helped urban sounds capture seven of 10 nominations in the awards' two loftiest categories - record and album of the year - critics complain that it took a White rapper, Eminem, to wake the Grammys up in recent years to a genre created by African-Americans more than two decades ago.

And as hip-hop is embraced by mainstream America, aficionados worry that Grammy honors may be reserved for slickly marketed acts, such as 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé, and withheld from newer, edgier artists, such as ghetto poet Jaheim, British rapper Ms Dynamiteand Georgia's Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz.

"The Grammys have been historically negligent of the hip-hop genre," says Serena Kim, features editors for Vibe magazine.

"Nobody had the foresight to see what a huge phenomenon hip-hop was going to be, and their efforts to patch things up . . . were kind of late and feeble."

The enormity of that phenomenon hit home in October, when the top 10 tracks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart were by Black artists. Those songs ranged from smooth R&B to hard-core rap to rock-tinged hip-hop, including offerings from six artists who would earn Grammy nods - Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Sean Paul, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams and Ludacris.

The 18,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences must have been listening when they released their Grammy nominations in December: A stunning 10 of the 13 top-nominated acts were either rappers or R&B singers.

Beyoncé, Jay-Z, OutKast and Pharrell Williams lead the pack with six nods apiece, while six other urban acts have five chances each to win.

"They can't look the other way and deny the fact that it's the biggest music out there and it pretty much runs the Top 10," Arizona hip-hop promoter Ty Carter says.

The genre's run at the charts was fueled in the past year by such brilliantly produced albums as OutKast's Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Missy Elliott's Under Construction, Timberlake's Justified, Beyoncé's Dangerously in Love and Sean Paul's Dutty Rock.

"It says a lot about our culture today and about how strong those albums were," says Sarah Lewitinn, an assistant editor at Spin magazine.

"A lot of hip-hop albums in the past have been shut out (of the Grammys), but production-wise and song-wise they might not have been up to par with albums like OutKast's."

Culturally speaking, hip-hop has become a multi-billion-dollar industry encompassing not only music, but fashion, sports, movies and Madison Avenue ad campaigns.

The program director of the Valley's "KISS FM" (KZZP, 104.7) has watched the phenomenon take over his station's playlist and American pop culture.

"Somebody like Beyoncé has helped (R&B and hip-hop grow) through things like being involved with every major sporting-event broadcast, her deal with Pepsi and . . . she's a fashion trendsetter."

But the rising Grammy fortunes of such heavily marketed artists as Beyoncé and Timberlake, who both performed for a global TV audience of 143 million at last Sunday's Super Bowl, cause concern among those who have followed hip-hop since it was an underground phenomenon.

Gail Mitchell of Billboard magazine worries that heavily formatted radio and MTV playlists are stacked against lesser-known and more edgy acts:

"There's a lot o

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