To their credit, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences didn’t give Black people any pretense that the show wasn’t going to piss a bunch of us off. All but one of the hip hop and R&B categories were given before the telecast began, and for the most part, the winners in each category elicited some variation of “hell no” as a response. Based on the majority of the winners, many of them won for not necessarily being the best in their category but, rather, for being the Black name that old White men best recognized.
For example, you seem like a doll, Alicia Keys, but there’s a reason why Girl On Fire is your lowest selling album to date. Likewise, I love Rihanna like she loves a Swisher Sweet, but her winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” aka “Best Of Those New Blacks” over Tamar Braxton, Mack Wilds, Fantasia, and Salaam Remi seemed wrong. Is there no safe place for any straight up R&B artist?
No, unless you’re Justin Timberlake, who conveniently picked up an R&B Award (Best R&B Song, “Pusher Love Girl”) while also scoring a nod for “Suit & Tie” in a pop category. Now, if any Black act sang that same song, it’d be relegated to the Best Traditional R&B category (which went to Gary Clark, Jr.’s “Please Come Home.” Congrats to him and to Lalah Hathaway, who took Best R&B Performance for Snarky Puppy’s “Something.”)