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How Artists of Color Put Race and Politics Center Stage at the Grammys

By Sameer Rao—Feb. 13, 2017

Like the Super Bowl and Golden Globes before it, the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony last night (February 13) became a platform for political and creative statements at the intersection of music, race and activism. Here are the moments where those issues surfaced:

Last November, Frank Ocean noted the Grammys’ tendency to overlook Black artists in the awards’ main categories, including “Album of the Year,” when speaking to The New York Times about why he did not submit “Blonde” or “Endless” for Grammy consideration. “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience,” he said.

Grammy ceremony producer Ken Ehrlich suggested on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast Friday (February 10) that Ocean boycotted this year’s awards over disappointment from his 2013 performance. Ehrlich produced that ceremony as well, and insisted that he executed Ocean’s performance idea “knowing that it was faulty” and despite his own objections. “[Ocean’s] feelings about the Grammys right now, I would imagine, probably go back to that [performance] in one way,” said Erhlich. “But honestly, it wasn’t us.”

Ocean addressed that sentiment in a Tumblr post on Saturday (February 11), writing that the performance was “absolute shit” and plagued by “technical difficulties,” but that his decision to stay away had nothing to do with that and everything to do wtih the fact that the academy consistently awards White artists over Black ones.

I’ve actually been tuning into CBS around this time of year for a while to see who gets the top honor, and you know what’s really not “great TV” guys? [Taylor Swift’s] “1989” getting “Album of the Year” over [Kendrick Lamar’s] “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Hands down one of the most ‘faulty’ TV moments I’ve seen. …And if you’re up for a discussion about the cultural bias and general nerve damage that the show you produce suffers from, then I’m all for it.

Read more at Colorlines.

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