Artists Vs. Grammys: A Brief History of Boycotts and Beef

Kanye may have beef with everyone, but his problem with the Grammys is valid.
Kanye may have beef with everyone, but his problem with the Grammys is valid. Karwai Tang/Getty
The Weeknd isn't the only one who's been blinded by the lights of the Grammy nomination process. After he was snubbed by the Grammys for the 2021 season, the singer spoke out about how unfair the secret nomination process can be to top-performing artists.

After dropping a chart-topping album with After Hours and the most-streamed single of the last year with “Blinded by the Lights,” The Weeknd, his fans and other artists were disappointed to hear he hadn't received a single Grammy nomination. This led to The Weeknd starting a boycott of the Grammys, which gained the support of other artists the likes of Zayn, Drake and Wiz Khalifa. The Grammy nominating board wasn’t here for the smoke and removed most of its secret review committees, a move which drew widespread criticism.

The Grammy nomination process has long been a pain in the ass for recording artists, especially for hip-hop artists starting all the way back in the '80s. Here are some other artists who have either boycotted or called out the Grammys.

Kanye West
Would old Kanye have given his Grammy award a golden shower? New Kanye famously did just that in a September 2020 Twitter video, making his feelings on the Grammys clear with the caption, “Trust me … I WON’T STOP.” West has long been outspoken about the award wins and nominations (who could forget his Taylor Swift interruption?) and didn’t attend the Grammy ceremony in 2012 when his joint album with Jay Z, Otis, won Best Rap Performance. Jay Z, who'd also boycotted the award show in previous years, wasn’t there for the award either.

West has boycotted the awards in the past in solidarity with other artists. In 2017, he was nominated for eight awards but didn't show up in support of Frank Ocean after the singer's albums Blonde and Endless weren't given nominations in any category.

Tyler, the Creator
Speaking backstage at the 2020 Grammys following his Best Rap Album win, Tyler, the Creator didn’t hold back on his disappointment for winning in the rap/urban category. The artist said he was grateful for the award but that having his music boxed into the category felt like “a backhanded compliment” and “a politically correct way to say the N-word."

Though he didn’t boycott the Grammys, Tyler, the Creator did make statements denouncing the Grammy's racial bias by consistently grouping Black artists into “urban” categories even when they fall into multiple musical genres.

Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj used the announcement of the 2021 Grammys to remind everyone she was snubbed for Best New Artist in 2012 when Bon Iver won the award over Minaj.

Minaj tweeted, "Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver."


Eminem has been on and off with his Grammy protests and boycotts since 2001, when he famously joined Elton John onstage to prove he didn’t actually hate the LGBTQ community despite the many homophobic lyrics in his catalog. Eminem’s performance with Elton John was meant to combat that criticism, but it didn’t entirely help, and angry protestors gathered outside the award venue.

In 2011, Eminem had 10 nominations but only took home two. As the years pass, Slim Shady seems to care less about the validation that comes from receiving awards. When he won Best Rap Album and Best Rap/ Sung Collaboration in 2015, he was a no-show.

Public Enemy
Chuck D, one member of hip-hop group Public Enemy, called out the Grammys for ousting the Recording Academy president Deborah Dougan 10 days before the 2020 award ceremony. Public Enemy received the Lifetime Achievement Award with a personal announcement from Dougan, so finding out the person who nominated them was removed days before their live acceptance of the award didn't sit well with the group.

Public Enemy was one of the first artists to boycott the awards. This was in 1989, way before rap and hip-hop got any deserved recognition, and when rap first got a category as a music genre in the award show. Public Enemy refused to attend the ceremony once it was announced the rap nominations and awards would not be televised.

50 Cent
Of his 15 total nominations, 50 Cent has only won one, for a collaboration with Eminem and Dr. Dre. Even at the height of his career in 2004 with 14 nominations for his debut, he was snubbed from any wins. That year, the rapper publicly said he’d never go to the Grammys again.

Fast forward to 2020, when 50 caught a stray snub for the posthumous Pop Smoke album he executive- produced. 50 said he had a feeling the album wouldn't receive any awards because of how similar it was to his own musical work. He was right; Pop Smoke's album didn't make its way into the nominations for Best Rap Album in 2021. In a deleted Instagram post, 50 described the Grammys as "out of touch."

Wolfgang Van Halen
Speaking of out of touch, one embarrassing and sad moment in the awards' history came with Eddie Van Halen's In Memoriam segment at the 2021 Grammys. Wolfgang Van Halen, son of the late rocker, was invited to play a bit of the song "Eruption" during the segment, but he declined because he didn't think he could perform the song as well as his old man. They apparently failed to ask anyone else to do it.

Wolf later went online to express his disappointment over the fact that his father only received a 15-second tribute in between full-length performances honoring other artists. Think that’s awkward and cold? It gets worse: There was no mention of Van Halen when artists who'd died in the last year were acknowledged during another part of the show. Following the Grammys, Wolfgang tweeted about his disappointment with screenshots of a letter explaining his side of the situation.

Post Malone
At the 2020 Grammys, tat lord Post Malone was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Sunflower” with Swae Lee. The song was everywhere, especially given the popularity of the animated Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse, where we were first introduced to the track. That’s not the only time he was snubbed; Post Malone has had nine nominations with a grand total of zero wins.
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Raven Jordan is a music and culture intern for the Dallas Observer. At the University of North Texas, Jordan wrote for the arts and culture section of the North Texas Daily student paper. She enjoys writing about race and social justice, pop culture and local events.