It is the Grammy time of the year and VIBE magazine wants to help the association become versed with the aesthetic habits of younger hip-hop fans. Hip-hop first declared that the Grammys were out of touch back in 1989 when Will Smith, LL Cool J, and Salt N Pepa boycotted the show. After the creative and commercial breakthroughs of Slick Rick, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and Run DMC among others the show refused to include rap during the live telecast. And hip-hop has not been the only genre to criticize the awards show that started in 1958. Bono said when he was younger he called it “The Grannys” and writers have complained over the years about the best new artist picks and the scant recognition for jazz. Herbie Hancock’ s Grammy for River: The Joni Letters last year was the first time a jazz album won album of the year since 1964 when Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto earned the accolade for their Getz/Gilberto project. Jay-Z only recently started attending the ceremony and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails industrial fame believes the Grammys only exist for self-validation. The independently successful rouge painted rap mavericks Insane Clown Posse told an interviewer that they could not buy a ticket from The Temptations to go to the show because their success undermines Grammy authority. VIBE magazine knew there was a divergence between what the fans wanted and the way The Recording Academy voted.
Ongoing online polls at Vibeverses.com and the readers’ responses to the main site and the print magazine revealed much different musical concerns than the academy’s choices. Their response to the arbitrary appraisals of hip-hop sparked the creation of the Vammys. Urban music fans can go the site and vote for the Best Mixtape DJ and Best Hook artist and enter a sweepstakes for prizes. Music editor Sean Fennessey wrote an article about the new poll for the February issue of VIBE with Kanye West on the cover. He answered a few questions about the Vammys but it is the readers’ reactions to the ballot that will be the most illuminating about the relationship between a large contingent of hip-hop fans and an institution that has been criticized for using outmoded methods to find the real stars.
How are Vibe readers different from the Grammy voters?
VIBE readers by definition are younger and more plugged into youth culture than most Grammy voters. The industry has a way of making people cynical but the unencumbered can go on instinct and respond to the music that soundtracks their life.
Will the Vammys help to make the Grammys more credible or do you think the Vammys will need to become its own entity?
I think it’s merely an alternative, a slight nudge. The Grammys are a historic institution and VIBE certainly respects that.
What do the Grammys need to do to become more relevant?
It’s merely a matter of paying more attention and examining young people’s taste a bit. Pop music has always been the den of the young and the Grammys should keep that in mind.