Some of the biggest artists in music have had a long-standing gripe with Music’s Biggest Night.
The impetus behind their “f— the Grammys” tweets, “out of touch” commentary and more reflects the personal hurt they’ve suffered for their art not receiving the recognition they think it deserves. But it also speaks volumes to larger issues about the lack of gender and racial diversity within the winners’ circle as well as a perceived lack of transparency about the nomination process — issues that have plagued the Recording Academy over most of the 63 years it has been hosting the Grammy Awards.
But that would entail 63 years worth of artists to comb through, so Billboard decided to stick to the last five years of major acts who’ve taken the Grammys to task with critiques that frequently echo one another.
Below, find 26 artists who’ve been critical of the Grammy Awards in recent history.
The Weeknd decided to boycott the Grammys moving forward following his highly controversial shutout at the 2021 ceremony. The R&B superstar was thought to be a strong contender in the Big Four categories, including album of the year for his fourth LP After Hours, which spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, as well as record of the year and song of the year for his blockbuster hit “Blinding Lights,” which broke Billboard chart records a year after its release. But on the morning of Nov. 24, 2020, when the 2021 Grammy Award nominations were revealed, The Weeknd’s name was nowhere to be found.
He initially expressed his frustration toward the Recording Academy by tweeting, “The Grammys remain corrupt.” In his second Twitter missive, he wrote that he went from planning a Grammys performance to being “not invited.” Kid Cudi, Tinashe, Scooter Braun and more industry folks came to The Weeknd’s defense.
The Weeknd stated in his Billboard cover story that in the 63 years of the Grammys, only 10 Black artists have won album of the year as lead artists: Stevie Wonder (in 1974, 1975 and 1977), Michael Jackson (1984), Lionel Richie (1985), Quincy Jones (1991), Natalie Cole (1992), Whitney Houston (1994), Lauryn Hill (1999), OutKast (2004), Ray Charles (2005) and Herbie Hancock (2008). The Weeknd, a three-time Grammy winner, noted that his snub in the top categories felt like “a sucker punch.” “It just kind of hit me out of nowhere. I definitely felt … I felt things. I don’t know if it was sadness or anger. I think it was just confusion,” he elaborated. “I just wanted answers. Like, ‘What happened?’ We did everything right, I think. I’m not a cocky person. I’m not arrogant. People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me. Like, ‘This is it; this is your year.’ We were all very confused.”
The former One Directioner fired off at the Recording Academy five days before the 2021 Grammy Awards with a “F— the grammys” tweet. He expressed his frustration over the voting process and the lack of transparency behind it as well as the lack of inclusion of different kinds of artists in a space that “allows favoritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process.” But Zayn clarified that his missives weren’t personal or about his own eligibility.
Just one day after the 2021 Grammy Awards, Weezy followed in Zayn’s explicit footsteps and hit send on a “F– the Grammys” tweet. But he took his most recent shutout personally. In December, the five-time Grammy-winning rapper wondered on social media why he wasn’t invited or nominated in the 2021 ceremony.
His 13th studio album Funeral was absent from the general or rap categories during the 2021 nomination announcement, but it received a nod for best recording package — though the nomination went to art director Kyle Goen, not Weezy.
West, one of the 15 living people with the most Grammy wins (21), marked where he stands on the Grammys: The “Piss On Your Grave” rapper urinated on the hardware in a Twitter video in September 2020, and that wasn’t the first time he had dunked on the awards show.
He vowed to skip the 2017 Grammy Awards, where he was up for eight awards, in solidarity with Frank Ocean after both of their albums, Blonde and Endless, were not nominated for any awards (more on that later). “As artists, we’ve got to come together to fight the bullsh–,” West told concertgoers during an October 2016 show.
At the 2015 Grammys, West almost busted out his notorious awards show interruption stunt whenever a white artist wins over Beyoncé by taking the stage when Beck won album of the year with Morning Phase over Bey’s self-titled. “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists, to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more,” West said following the incident to E!. “Because when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration.”
Frank Ocean sat out the 2017 Grammy Awards and decided to not submit his highly acclaimed 2016 LP and Billboard 200 No. 1 Blonde nor his visual album Endless for consideration as his “Colin Kaepernick moment.” “That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down,” the two-time Grammy winner told The New York Times in a rare interview, noting the show’s failure to properly award Black artists. “I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated. I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”
The Grammy Awards broadcast’s then-producer Ken Ehrlich and writer David Wild responded to his criticism, saying Ocean’s 2013 Grammys performance did not make for “great TV” and was “faulty.” The “Thinkin Bout You” singer flipped the script in a tumblr post, asserting that “winning a TV award” doesn’t make him successful and calling Taylor Swift’s album of the year victory in 2016 for 1989 over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly “hands down one of the most ‘faulty’ TV moments” he’s seen.
It came as a surprise at the 2021 Grammys when Hov and Bey pulled up, the former casually winning his 23rd award while the latter made herstory. That’s because Jay-Z’s boycotting days date back to 1999, when the committee failed to acknowledge DMX for his torrid run in 1998, which included two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 with It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. “DMX had an incredible album. He didn’t get a nomination. I was like, ‘Nah, that’s crazy,’” Jay-Z explained in a 2002 interview with MTV News. But in 2018, the same year Hov led the nominees with eight (including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year) but lost in every category, he slammed the awards on The Carters’ hit “APESH–” by rapping, “Tell the Grammy’s f— that 0-for-8 sh–.”
The Public Enemy founding member blasted the Recording Academy while backing former Recording Academy president/CEO Deborah Dugan, after she was placed on administrative leave 10 days before the 2020 awards show, where Public Enemy received a Lifetime Achievement Award. “As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress and screw it up. Same old bullsh–,” he wrote in his statement, suggesting Dugan was punished for attempting to bring change to the organization. “They want to keep it status quo and make sure things like Hip Hop stay the poster child of their f—ery.”
His statement came 30 years after the six-time Grammy-nominated hip-hop group boycotted the 1989 Grammys, the first time rap claimed a category of its own, along with other MCs in a movement led by Def Jam’s Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen after being informed that the award would not be televised. (The Grammys blamed the snub on time restrictions.)
When the 2021 Grammy Award nominations were announced, Minaj took the Recording Academy to task for not recognizing her impact. “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,” the 10-time Grammy nominee (who has yet to win) wrote on Twitter. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”
The year was 2012, when Minaj was up for not only best new artist, but also album of the year for Loud, best rap performance for “Moment 4 Life” and best rap album for Pink Friday.
Another 10-time Grammy-nominated rapper, Wiz Khalifa (who likewise has yet to win), responded to a Twitter user the morning The Weeknd received a shocking zero nominations for the 2021 Grammys that “its politics. If you don’t show up to their parties they don’t throw your name around.”
Justin Bieber wrote a short letter to the Recording Academy on Instagram the day nominations for the 2021 Grammys were revealed, stating how his mission to make an R&B album was not honored properly when Changes was up for best pop vocal album.
“To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry. I am very meticulous and intentional about my music. With that being said I set out to make an R&B album. Changes was and is an R&B album,” he started. “For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B Album! To be clear I absolutely love Pop music it just wasn’t what I set out to make this time around. My gratitude for feeling respected for my work remains and I am honored to be nominated either way.”
After gracing the cover of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players issue and discussing the importance of women in R&B in a roundtable conversation with Kehlani, Jhené Aiko and Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor took to Twitter to express her frustration over the male-dominated best R&B album category ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards.
“Y’all was better off just saying best MALE R&B ALBUM cause all I see is di– in this category,” she wrote while resharing the Academy’s announcement of the five male nominees’ projects. Taylor, Kehlani and Walker all did not receive Grammy nominations this year, but Aiko earned three, including one in the Big Four category of album of the year for Chilombo.
Despite Manic spawning the Billboard Hot 100-topping single “Without Me,” Halsey spoke out about her 2021 Grammys snub on her Instagram Story and, like Zayn, wished for fewer “handshakes” and more transparency in the process behind the nominations. “The Grammys are an elusive process,” she wrote. “It can often be about behind the scenes private performances, knowing the right people, campaigning through the grapevine, with the right handshake and ‘bribes’ that can be just ambiguous enough to pass as ‘not bribes.’”
The two-time Grammy-nominated singer added that many politics go into receiving a nod, including “committing to exclusive TV performances” that help the Recording Academy earn “millions in advertising on the night of the show.” “It’s not always about the music or quality or culture,” Halsey added. “While I am THRILLED for my talented friends who were recognized this year, I am hoping for more transparency or reform. But I’m sure this post will blacklist me anyway.”
Drake showed some major crew love to The Weeknd following his surprising shutout at the 2021 Grammys, but 6 God let the record show he doesn’t believe this awards show, which “once was the highest form of recognition,” has remained relevant to the artists who are thought to be deserving of it. “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” he wrote on Instagram. “This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come.”
The 47-time Grammy nominee has gained nods in each of the Big Four categories — best new artist in 2011, record of the year for “Work” with Rihanna in 2017 and “God’s Plan” in 2019, song of the year for “God’s Plan” and album of the year for his contributions on Minaj’s Loud in 2012, Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City in 2014, Beyoncé’s self-titled LP in 2015, and for his own albums Views in 2017 and Scorpion in 2019. However, he’s only won four Grammys since 2010, and they’ve all been in the rap categories.
The Grammy-nominated rapper sought out justice for the late Pop Smoke’s posthumous album Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, which he executive produced and was notably left out of the album of the year and best rap album categories at the 2021 Grammy Awards. In a since-deleted Instagram post, 50 Cent expressed his disappointment toward the Recording Academy, describing it as “out of touch.” “Best Rap Album,” he wrote, followed by grinning emojis. “They out of touch this sh– ain’t it, get the f— outta here.”
Just two weeks before the 2021 Grammy nominations were announced, in an interview with Spotify’s RapCaviar, Fif predicted Pop’s project might get snubbed at the awards show. “If it’s recognized, it’ll only get recognized because he’s gone,” he explained. “The content is similar to what I would do. They didn’t recognize mine. They gave me Grammys when I was with Em, when I’m on records with Eminem. They’re afraid to give [Pop Smoke] Grammys because they think it’s teaching the audience to want to be like Pop. And to be like him is to be a part of gang culture. Who you see get Grammys that is making drill music? You mean to tell me ain’t none of those songs worthy of it? Those platforms are not for them to acknowledge. It’s for the culture, the people to embrace those tones and to really appreciate the artist for doing that.”
50 Cent has been nominated for 14 Grammys since 2004, including best new artist his first year and in the rap categories throughout his tenure, but 50 won just once in 2010 for best rap performance by a duo or group for “Crack a Bottle” with Eminem and Dr. Dre.
The English singer-songwriter started a longer conversation about the music industry by writing a piece on Medium shortly after the 2021 Grammy nominations were called. “In most artistic fields, awards seem to come off the back of great critical acclaim, but in today’s music industry such ‘acclaim’ can have varied sources. People are being awarded — in the form of both nominations and category wins — for reasons that are hard to decipher,” she wrote. “If both the most globally popular artists and most critically revered artists are not being recognised, how do we, as artists, go on?”
While speaking on behalf of artists who are also concerned about “a greater lack of transparency in our industry’s process of award nominations and voting,” Goulding posed two major questions to the music industry at large: What constitutes the worthiness of an award, and who is it that decides this worthiness?
When Puff Daddy accepted the Salute to Industry Icons Award at the Clive Davis and Recording Academy’s Pre-Grammy Gala ahead of the 2020 awards show, he threw down his own gauntlet to the Academy on behalf of artists by giving an ultimatum: “You’ve got 365 days’ notice to get this sh– together.”
The three-time Grammy-winning MC explicitly called out the Academy for its lack of diversity and transparency. “Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be … And that stops right now,” he stated, later closing his speech by dedicating his award to Beyoncé (Lemonade), Kanye West (Graduation) and other artists with highly acclaimed albums that never received the top accolades at the Grammys over the years.
After his one and only Grammy win for best rap album (Igor), Tyler called out the Recording Academy backstage for the nomenclature behind the categories Black artists typically dominate. “It sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he told press backstage. “And I don’t like that urban word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me…. Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment.”
The 15-time Grammy-winning MC talked to Sway Calloway in 2018 about how the Grammys suck the blood out of artists by requesting their attendance to an awards show they won’t win at. “They’re always pitching this hint that you might win album of the year, which used to be a big deal. I don’t think it’s a big deal now,” Eminem said. He later reflected on Norah Jones winning album of the year for Come Away With Me at the 2003 Grammys over The Eminem Show and Steely Dan winning in the same category with Two Against Nature over The Marshall Mathers LP two years prior. “After that point in time, I was like, ‘Don’t ever ask me to f—ing come here again. Please do not ask me. My answer is no for a 100 million years. Never again will I f—ing go to the Grammys,” he stated.
His boycott comes two decades after “The Real Slim Shady” artist rapped, “You think I give a da– about a Grammy?/ Half of these critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me.”
Grande chose not to perform at the 2019 Grammy Awards and disclosed her side of the story after disputing an Associated Press interview with the ceremony’s former producer Ken Ehrlich, who’s quoted as saying the the singer “felt it was too late to put something together for the show.” However, Grande let the record show she could “pull together a performance over night,” the “Thank U, Next” singer tweeted. “It was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you, that i decided not to attend….It’s about collaboration. it’s about feeling supported. it’s about art and honesty. not politics. not doing favors or playing games. it’s just a game y’all.. and i’m sorry but that’s not what music is to me.”
Grande was nominated for best pop vocal album (Sweetener) and best pop solo performance (“God Is a Woman”) that year. She ended up winning the former.
The Recording Academy’s former president/CEO Neil Portnow angered a lot of artists when he said female musicians need to “step up.” When asked about the fact that women accounted for only 9% of the 899 nominees at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Portnow told reporters backstage at the show: “[They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.” That line welcomed plenty of replies from some of the world’s biggest female artists, including P!nk, who performed during the ceremony and was nominated for best pop solo performance with “What About Us.” She shared a handwritten note full of outrage and support for her fellow female artists on Twitter.
“Women in music don’t need to ‘step up’ — women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this,” she wrote. “When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.”
Like P!nk, Crow jumped on the #GrammysSoMale train and wished the awards show would return to separate female and male categories, which were done away with in 2012 when the Recording Academy announced a sweeping overhaul of their category structure. “Who will young girls be inspired by to pick up a guitar and rock when most every category is filled with men?” the singer asked on Twitter. “I’m not sure it is about women needing to ‘step up’, (as said by the male in charge). #GrammysSoMale.”
Charli XCX felt the same rage toward Portnow as Crow and P!nk and channeled it in her tweet about the Academy’s insensitivity toward the lack of female representation at the Grammys. “Ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face.. women are making AMAZING music right now wtf is this dude talking about ?????” she wrote.
In a since-deleted Twitter thread, the Australian rapper, who was nominated for record of the year and best pop duo/group performance with Charli XCX for their collaboration “Fancy” in 2015, said she didn’t necessarily think there is a need to boycott the awards show — yet — but explained how the comments are “infuriating for women in entertainment.” “I think it’s that every single woman in the entertainment business has stepped up again and again and been met with the door to the boys clubs cigar bar slammed in their face,” Azalea explained. “I don’t think any of us are saying male artists are undeserving of recognition and celebration too, but we women know what goes on behind the curtain and so that’s why that comment from Neil has the girls fuming.”
After his 2019 album Diaspora was missing from the 2020 Grammy Awards nominations list, GoldLink put his foot down and declared “its f— Grammys til the day I die” on his Instagram. The “Crew” rapper also defended Tyler, the Creator, Burna Boy, Koffee, DaBaby and Solange for getting recognized in different categories — such as Tyler’s Igor being up for best rap album as opposed to album of the year — or no categories at all, such as Solange’s When I Get Home, because of the Recording Academy’s failure to honor domestic and international Black art.
“I am no longer participating in that wild a– slave a– political a– cheating a– game any longer. The lack of relevance you have just solidified today is unbelievable,” GoldLink wrote. “Tyler [The Creator] got one f—in nomination in a category he didn’t even participate in knowing da– well he deserved album of the year. Burna Boy deserves more, Koffee deserves more. DaBaby couldn’t ‘qualify’ for best new artist apparently because he had ‘mixtape’ in the past. No nod to Solange for taking a risk pushing the boundaries when nobody else was brave enough to do so.”
Koffee eventually won that year for best reggae album with Rapture. Meanwhile, Burna Boy was passed over for best world music album in 2020 with African Giant, but he eventually took home the award in the same category (which was rebranded as best global music album) with his subsequent studio effort Twice As Tall.
And the tweet heard ’round the world by artists — “F— the Grammys” — found its way to Noname’s account (which has since been deleted) following the announcement of the 2020 Grammy nominees. The rapper shared a Twitter thread about why the awards show “will get worse as music gets more democratized,” according to writer and activist Charles A. Preston, who listed abolishing the Grammys, breaking it down into four smaller shows for each quarter and dividing it into two shows based on the music industry and people’s choices as possible solutions to the problem.
Wolfgang Van Halen
The son of Eddie Van Halen, who died on Oct. 6, 2020, declined the Recording Academy’s request to perform “Eruption” during the 2021 Grammys’ “In Memoriam” segment, which included a short clip of the Van Halen guitarist performing that very song in archival footage while a lone guitar was perched onstage. But once Wolfgang realized the tribute to those in music who had passed away would include performances by Lionel Richie, Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) and Brandi Carlile for Kenny Rogers, Little Richard and John Prine, respectively, he wanted the chance to talk to the Academy about the legacy of his father and the rock genre for being “out of touch,” the same language 50 Cent used in his critique about the absence of Pop Smoke in the best rap album category.
“It was my understanding that there would be an ‘In Memoriam’ section where bits of songs were performed for legendary artists that had passed,” he wrote on his socials the day after the awards show, as did former Van Halen lead vocalist Gary Cherone. “What hurt the most was that he wasn’t even mentioned when they talked about artists we lost in the beginning of the show. I know rock isn’t the most popular genre right now, (and the academy does seem a bit out of touch) but I think it’s impossible to ignore the legacy my father left on the instrument, the world of rock, and music in general. There will never be another innovator like him.”