How Is Outkast Still The Only Hip-Hop Act To Take Out A Grammy For Album Of The Year?

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Despite iconic records from the likes of Lil Nas X, Drake and Kanye West, Outkast still remains the only hip-hop act to take home the big prize of Album of the Year at the Grammys.

Album of the Year is a hotly contested category and the fact that Outkast is the only hip-hop act to win this Grammy is “kind of wild,” says music writer Sosefina Fuamoli.

“There have been some hip-hop records that have truly shifted the dial when we talk about not only hip-hop culture but just music culture itself” says Fuamoli.

Considering Outkast took out the award in the early 00s and no hip-hop artist has won it since is even more staggering.

Outkast won the Grammy in 2004 with their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and set a standard for how hip-hop artists were translated to the mainstream, and yet Outkast remain the only hip-hop act to take out the award.

In recent years the Grammy’s has also come under increasing scrutiny for use of the term ‘urban’ as an award category. In 2020 Urban Contemporary became Progressive R&B but the term urban was added to the Latin Pop category.

“Urban is an incredibly antiquated term in itself, when we talk about urban really what it means is a term to categorise a certain type of folk, especially if you look at it historically,” Fuamoli says.

“If you go back into the 70s, the Grammys weren’t even broadcasting the Black categories, they did all that stuff earlier in the broadcast.”

Fuamoli told Junkee that we can’t talk about terms like urban being taken away in recent history without acknowledging the foundational elements of racism and classism that existed within this institution, just as it has done throughout the rest of the music industry since the beginning.

The shuffling of urban categories hasn’t solved the Grammy’s issue with categorising artists and the institution still has a long way to go when we look at how the R&B categories have been diversified over the last few years.

Many artists are pushing the boundaries when it comes to genres and this doesn’t align with what the Grammy’s views a rap or an R&B album to be. When Tyler, The Creator came out with his latest record Call Me If You Get Lost the Grammy’s struggled to categorise it because it embraced many different genres.

Artists like The Weekend and Drake have pulled out of the Grammy’s in recent years and there are still broader conversations around the Grammy’s recognising the need to change.

“I think everything can change and I think everything does need to change. It’s not just about music, it’s never just been about the music, it’s a commodity, there’s money to be made off it just as there’s money to be made for the artists,” Fuamoli says.

“Whatever change that is going to come like with any of these things, it’s to be a long drawn out process.”