The 55th Annual Grammy Awards literally just wrapped up like five minutes ago and I spent the entire show with one eye glued to my television screen and the other to my Twitter timeline. Folks sure do like to comment on performances and I of all people was no exception tonight. I normally steer clear of social media during televised performances (or major political events) but tonight I felt chatty. I feel compelled to write this article based on two things: Frank Ocean’s performance and the performance that concluded the night which consisted of Public Enemy’s Chuck D, LL Cool J, Tom Morello, DJ Z-Trip and Travis Barker.
Let me start out with Frank. You know who Frank reminds me of? This kid I knew of in high school, but I never bothered to learn his name. He always had his guitar with him and at lunch he’d sit in the corner with a few of his friends and strum and play. When I walked by, their music was always in key, their voices perfectly pitched, and their demeanor super humble and chill. That’s who Frank is. A sweet, humble young man who is obviously very into his art and not so into all the drama and controversy surrounding it. Tonight, his solo performance consisted of one song off his Channel Orange album, Forrest Gump. My personal favorite. Its his “gay” song. Yeah, a song where he sings about liking another dude. I saw a whole lot of hate on my Twitter timeline about this. I get it, not everyone is comfortable with homosexuality (even though it is 2013). But let me ask you this; did Frank have sex with said dude in your bed? No? Did you pay money out of your own pocket to see this performance? No? Ok. Mute.
Secondly, people were talking about how “disappointed” they were in the performance itself. Why? Because he’s not jumping around the stage like an acrobat, splashing the audience with Moet champagne while some vixens twerk in the background? This is a quiet song. Its slow, its melodic. You’re supposed to contemplate. Earlier in the show Rihanna performed an equally slow, calm song and all I read was tweets about how great her voice is and how good she looks. But his voice wasn’t pitched to your liking, right? Yeah, okay.
At the end of the day, the set design for the performance was beyond gorgeous. It was a great use of digital media as Frank stood behind a podium to play the piano. The podium itself was a screen that used footage that referenced the Forrest Gump film which depicted Tom Hanks running in his infamous white suit. In the backdrop, which was also a screen, we saw footage of an open road, skaters and an orange coloured car driving by. For those of you know don’t know, this imagery is filled personal meaning. While in L.A., it is said that Frank can often been seen skateboarding down Fairfax Ave., and the car I’m assuming alludes to his debut mixtape Nostalgia Ultra. Everything was absolutely splendid and for anyone who’s complaining, I’d like this opportunity to quote my girl Kassie who once said “you like to hype up hype up too damn much.”
Frank didn’t win as many awards as I’d hoped but did win Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for No Church in the Wild alongside The-Dream and Jay-Z. He was rudely told by The-Dream to “back up” but Jay-Z put him in his place by thanking the swapmeet that Dream got his hat from. That’s right. Swerve. All the way to Slauson. If a legend like Jay-Z can step off to the side and let the youth shine, what exactly is your problem?
Secondly, I’d like to discuss the finale performance. I can literally feel my blood boiling and my blood pressure rising as I write this. First off, its no secret that hip hop was snubbed at the Grammys this year. And last year too. I get it, for every Life is Good there’s like five ratchet albums by D-list rappers who only want a chain and 15 minutes of fame. But there was some exceptional hip hop music release this year from artists who got zero recognition. Moving on though, I was willing to let my frustration subside when I found the finale feature the phenomenal Chuck D. Him, LL, Z-Trip, Tom and Travis performed Dead Prez’s joint (which features Chuck) Refuse To Lose as well as No Sleep till Brooklyn in memoriam of MCA (something Public Enemy did when I saw them perform last summer in Toronto). Anyways, the song was cut short by…wait for it…sponsorship commercials.
Yeah, you read right. Two hip hop legends performing a hip hop song that paid tribute to yet another hip hop legend got cut short. What asshole made this decision? Couldn’t they cut what seemed like an endless stream of country performances and let this amazing finale air in its entirety? Nope. How about next year they just host the Grammys in Nashville and have some Nascar races broadcast instead of commercials? I get it. This isn’t the Source Awards but I know I’m not a crazed hater. It was very blatant that hip hop was grossly underrepresented tonight. Yes, the camera was pointed at power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce numerous times throughout the night, but Jay has received nodes of approval from the President and Warren Buffet so its okay for mainstream society to like him. Jay is still Jay from Reasonable Doubt, only much more successful and accomplished (both in his personal and professional life) but its only his most recent image has been re-appropriated by mainstream white America.
I don’t know what I was expecting to be perfectly honest with you. I obviously got my hopes up too high. Last year’s Grammys didn’t treat hip hop any better and I have to wonder ‘why?’ Hip hop is the most definitive voice of Generation Y and Z (roughly 15 to 25 year olds). Perhaps one day when some of these young men and women establish themselves in the workforce and take on jobs which include organizing events such as the Grammys hip hop will get the accolades it deserves. Until then, the revolution with not be televised. It wasn’t televised before, and we’re still waiting. But fear not. “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back!”