After delivering a blistering performance retracing the journey of Africans from the continent to Compton, California, rapper Kendrick Lamar might now be feeling the same rebuke Beyonce endured after performing a 50th anniversary tribute to the Black Panther Movement at the Superbowl football face-off between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers recently.
The biggest winner during the 58th annual Grammy Awards gala, Lamar spared no emotion delivering a medley of his “Alright” and “The Blacker The Berry,” singles from the album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
Hosted by LL Cool J, this year’s spectacular highlighted Lamar with props depicting enslavement, the shackling mass incarceration of Blacks and a full endorsement of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Perhaps perceived controversial, he defied all expectations to win accolades and respect from his peers as well as viewers who might have previously been unfamiliar with his discography.
He was the biggest winner taking the most awards overall winning five miniature gramophones in the rap categories on the President’s Day broadcast.
Like Beyonce exhibited in San Francisco when she saluted the teenagers and the majority women that comprised the Black Panthers when they mobilized 50 years ago to feed hungry, Black children, Lamar may have started a Black History Month conversation.
Her performance was a source of contention for many witnessing women wearing black berets, fake bullets and fists reminiscent of the Black power era.
Without making any reference to the controversy surrounding her Superbowl performance, before presenting the top award of the evening, Beyonce said: “art is the unapologetic celebration of culture through self expression. It can impact people in a variety of ways, for different reasons, at different times. Some will react, some will respond, and some will be moved.”
Lamar’s use of graphic images using chains, prison garb and the glaring, whitened map of Africa marking Compton, California in the center of the geography certainly echoed pertinent sentiments.
More than expressive, Lamar defined poetry, artistry and blazed a fiery testament to racial inequality in America.
He was passionate, sincere, delivering socially conscientious rhymes and certainly optimized the most exciting performance of the evening.
So much so the White House tweeted kudos to the rapper and more than nine million Twitter users.
“Shoutout to @KendrickLamar and all the artists at the #Grammys working to build a brighter future” the message read.
This year’s Grammy awards could never be accused of lacking diversity.
With tributes to Ruth Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, Lionel Richie, B.B. King, Michael Jackson, and a shout-out to director Spike Lee for his telling documentary about the king of pop, the global showcase had its share of diverse representatives and spotlights.
Add to that a first-ever performance from the Great White Way, the cast of “Hamilton,” punctuated the challenges Alexander Hamilton faced as an immigrant from the Caribbean.
In a single selection from the musical, the live broadcast from Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater summed up the historic details about the life of the founding father.
Winning in the best theater category, “Hamilton” scored a victory for hip-hop, the cast, and acknowledgement of the role Hamilton played in shaping America’s future before becoming an image now legal tender on every $10 bill.
Undoubtedly a winner for the best acceptance speech delivered, New York lyricist, writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda — who characterized the St. Kitts-born history-maker — in accepting the prize, rapped a tribute that included a message to his daughter that he was “taking home a Grammy.”
Ray Chew, the musical director for the pre-Grammy ceremonies — where 83 awards were announced prior to the broadcast — gave Natalie Cole and Maurice White the attention the formal ceremony barely visited.
The keyboardist dedicated music and melody punctuating the uniqueness of the talents.
While Stevie Wonder joined Pentatonix to toast the iconic Shining Star during the live broadcast from the Staples Center with an a capella rendition of Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way of the World,” it seemed a token salute given the 10-song, six-minute, 30 second GaGa-fest lavished on British superstar David Bowie.
Bowie who died on Jan. 10 certainly deserved the honor. However, the passing of White on Feb. 3 should have compiled a tribute of his storied contribution to the industry and fans vocal that he deserved a few more ticks on the clock.
Similarly, given two generations of musical delight from the Cole’s one would have expected a special segment dedicated to the daughter who paired with her father Nat to win “Unforgettable” Grammy accolades.
Cole was nominated 21 times, won nine of the coveted awards and deserved a special acknowledgement when the music industry’s highest honors are handed in front of a global television audience.
Reportedly, forced by protests from insiders who demanded a tribute, an elongated nostalgic en memorium performance was added to nicely soothe what might have been a sad absence from the California program segment.
For fans, it was a bitter-sweet farewell to the balladeer and benefactor who left much too soon at age 65 on Dec. 31, 2015.
“Sadly a FORGETTABLE tribute to Natalie Cole,” Natalie Cole’s twin sisters Timolin and Casey reportedly told ET following the Grammy.
“Words cannot express the outrage and utter disappointment at the disrespectful tribute, or lack thereof, to a legendary artist such as our sister.”
“Here is a woman who has been in the business for four decades, had 21 Grammy nominations and won nine Grammys. She deserves more than (to be a part of) a minute-and-a-half tribute,” Robert Adam Yancy, Cole’s only son added.
“It was shameless the way they minimized her legacy. We will find solace in her legacy as well as her endless fans around the world.”
Tributes and Lifetime Achievement awards to Ruth Brown, B.B. King, Run DMC, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lionel Richie and Glenn Frey enhanced the presentation and should be annually added to the showcase.
Reportedly Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill cancelled appearances.
According to the Grammy organizers, the Barbados-born entertainer is allegedly resting her throat on doctor’s orders.
She apparently is suffering from bronchitis.
Rihanna had rehearsed “Kiss It Better” and was reportedly superb during that preview despite struggling with the throat ailment.
At the last minute she obeyed her medical advisors.
In contrast, Hill, the former Fugee said she never agreed to an appearance and was not fully informed of the details of a reported collaboration with Canada’s, the Weeknd.
After getting the news about Morgan Heritage’s first Grammy win, Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture called the group.
“We are extremely proud of the recognition that this top reggae group has now gotten for their outstanding work in creating sweet reggae music.”
“Reggae is a big part of our culture and it is always a great feeling when our artists are recognized on an international platform, especially on a grand stage such as the Grammy,” she added.
Gramps, Mojo and Peetah Morgan attended the pre-Grammy ceremony to collect their prestigious award and during their acceptance said: “Winning the Grammy is an achievement next to none. While we are grateful for the acknowledgement from our peers, we are even more grateful for the people behind the music and our fans that kept us going for over 20 years. It’s gratifying and humbling at the same time. Jah is worthy to be praised!”
Collaborators on “Strictly Roots” include Jo Mersa Marley (son of Stephen), Shaggy, J Boog, Jemere Morgan, Chronixx, Eric Rachmany (lead singer of Rebelution) and Bobby Lee from SOJA.
As expected, former President Jimmy Carter won his second Grammy during the pre-telecast ceremony. The 39th president of the United States won in the Best Spoken Word Album category for “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.”
Taylor Swift made history becoming the first female artist to twice win the coveted Best Album of the Year honor. The former country singer also won best pop vocal album and best music video for the “Bad Blood” recording.
Other winners include:
Album of the year — Winner: 1989, Taylor Swift
Record of the year — Winner: Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
Song of the year — Winner: Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran
Best new artist — Winner: Meghan Trainor
Best dance recording –Winner: Where Are Ü Now, Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber
Best urban contemporary album — Winner: The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness
Best rap album — Wnner: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Best musical theater album –Winner: Hamilton
Best R&B performance — Winner: The Weeknd, Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Best traditional R&B performance — Winner: Lalah Hathaway, Little Ghetto Boy
Best R&B song — Winner: D’Angelo and The Vanguard, Really Love
Best R&B album — Winner: D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
Best rap performance — Winner: Kendrick Lamar, Alright
Best rap/sung collaboration — Winner: Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat, These Walls
Best rap song — Winner: Kendrick Lamar, Alright
Best song written for visual media — Winner: Glory, Common & John Legend
Best music video — Winner: Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar, Bad Blood
Best music film — Winner: Amy Winehouse, Amy
Best Reggae Album– Winner: Morgan Heritage, Strictly Roots
Best World Music album — Winner: Benin’s Angelique Kidjo
Catch You On The Inside!