Sean “Diddy” Combs was honored Saturday at a pre-Grammys gala for industry heavyweights, and the legendary record producer and executive took the opportunity to call out the Recording Academy for its lack of support of black artists.
Diddy, a three-time Grammy winner, took home the Industry Icon Award at the gala and gave a 40-minute-long speech. He dedicated the last six minutes to express his disappointment with the awards ceremony and the Recording Academy, the body behind “music’s biggest night.”
“I’m officially starting the clock. You’ve got 365 days to get this shit together,” Diddy said. “We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity.”
Diddy urged people in the room that they had “the power to make the changes that need to be made.” He also called on the Recording Academy to fulfill its responsibilities to artists and the music industry.
“They’re a non-profit organization that’s supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community,” he said. “That’s what it says on the mission statement. That’s the truth. They work for us.”
In recent years, the Grammys have been criticized for failing to honor hip-hop artists in some of its most coveted categories, including Album of the Year. Though many hip-hop artists have been nominated for the award, including Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and Drake, none of their critically acclaimed albums nabbed the honor.
Adding to the problem is the fact that it’s been more than a decade since a hip-hop album won Album of the Year, in spite of the popularity of the genre.
“Black music has never been respected by the Grammys,” Diddy said, adding that the lack of diversity goes beyond music and into industries such as film and sports. “And for years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us,” he said. “And that stops right now.”
In recent years, many hip-hop artists have begun to decline invitations to the Grammys, saying they feel their work isn’t being properly recognized. In 2019, the show hit a new low in grabbing young adult viewers, another sign the ceremony is struggling to remain culturally relevant.
“The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it … and you just want an even playing field,” Diddy said on Saturday. “In the great words of Erykah Badu, we are artists and we are sensitive about our shit. We are passionate. For most of us, this is all we’ve got. This is our only hope.”
Diddy’s call out comes as the Recording Academy is also facing intense controversy stemming from the allegations of Deborah Dugan, the Grammys chief who said she was removed from her post for exposing details of sexual harassment and voting irregularities within the organization. In response, the Recording Academy on Sunday announced a slate of new initiatives developed with its Diversity Task Force.
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards was held last night January 26, 2020, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.