a new petition argues mixtapes should be eligible for grammys

One change.org user is urging the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to rewrite its rules and make free releases eligible for music's top honor.

by Emily Manning
10 May 2016, 3:50pm

The Grammys aren't exactly the best gauge of what's happening in hip-hop; Best Rap Album only became an award in 1996, Lauryn Hill is the only woman to have ever won it, and it was inexplicably given to Macklemore's The Heist over Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (a sleight the Seattle rapper made into the ultimate fall-on-your sword moment when he posted his apology text to Lamar on Instagram). Though Lamar finally got the honor he deserved when To Pimp a Butterfly took home this year's prize, one hip-hop fan is now going to bat for other artists and records that have been marginalized from "music's biggest night."

A new change.org petition is lobbying the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to make music released for free eligible to be nominated for the Grammys. Presently, music must be "commercially released in general distribution in the United States" in order to qualify for nomination. And while the Internet naturally qualifies as a commercial platform, recordings must be actually purchased from said "recognized independent distributors" to be eligible for the ballot.

According to petitioner Max Krasowitz, "This means that artists like Chance the Rapper, who are now getting national recognition and performing on national platforms...are being punished for making their music available to everyone, rich or poor, by releasing their music for free." The 23-year-old Chicago rapper has released almost all of his music in mixtape form, including his breakout record Acid Rap, which ranked #2 on Spin's Best Albums of 2013 list. Chance 3, his even more anticipated full-length follow up due this Friday, will also be released as a mixtape.

"It's obvious that these artists are making their music more accessible to people who deserve it even if they can't afford it, as well as decreasing pirating and illegally downloading music," Krasowitz argues. His petition — which is just shy of its 25,000 signature goal — speaks to the merits of a hip-hop cornerstone. Just about everyone in the game has dropped a free mixtape at some point in their career: be it during their earlier days (think A$AP Rocky's knockout Live.Love.A$AP, Nicki Minaj's enduring Beam Me Up Scotty, and Travi$ Scott's Days Before Rodeo), or even after they've made it big (Young Thug's Slime Season 3 and Future's Purple Reign arrived earlier this year).

"Not all artists should be forced to release their music for free," Krasowitz's petition concludes, "but the ones who do should not be punished for doing so." At this point, it's unlikely hip-hop's players put too much stock in Grammy wins, but why shouldn't music that's accessible to all be given the same chance to shine? 


Text Emily Manning
Chance 3 album cover via Twitter