The relationship between the Recording Academy and the Black music community has been fraught since 1989. That’s when DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith boycotted the Grammy Awards upon learning that the first-ever presentation for best rap performance (which they later won) would not be televised.
In the following 30 years, R&B and hip-hop have seen Grammy highs (album of the year wins for Lauryn Hill and OutKast in 1999 and 2004, respectively) and frustrating lows (snubs for both JAY-Z and Kendrick Lamar in that same category, in 2018) as the 63-year-old academy has grappled with the community’s demands for greater representation and more transparency in the nomination process overall.
The academy took major steps to address those issues in 2017, when it established a rap nominations review committee, and the next year, when it adopted new membership guidelines following recommendations from its Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. This year, it welcomed 1,722 new voting and non-voting professional members (23% of whom are Black) and hired its first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones. And in the wake of Blackout Tuesday in June, the academy partnered with the racial justice organization Color of Change in an effort to take further stock of its role in ending systemic bias in the industry.