Jay-Z said though he boycotted the Grammys almost two decades ago, he’s better served helping the Recording Academy grow instead of abandoning it.
At Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala on Saturday — where Jay-Z earned the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Award — he said he initially boycotted because DMX had an amazing year in music but didn’t earn any nominations at the 1999 Grammys.
Jay-Z’s sophomore project, “Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life,” won best rap album that year though he didn’t attend the show, besting albums by A Tribe Called Quest, Mase, Big Punisher and Jermaine Dupri.
“I didn’t come back until… 2004 when a beautiful, young lady whom I love dearly had a solo album… the beautiful Miss Beyoncé.
And I realized, ‘Man, art is super subjective and everyone is doing their best, and the Academy, they’re human like we are and they’re voting on things they like and it’s subjective,’” he told the audience, which included Quincy Jones, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Diddy and Beyoncé, who Davis called “the first lady of music.”
“And if we believe in it — ’cause we do, we can pretend that we don’t care but we really care — we care ’cause we’ve seen the most incredible artists stand on that stage and we’re inspired to be that, so I was like, ’I have to be here,” he added.
“That is the idea for all of us to get involved and to push this thing further no matter what happens at the Grammys, it’s going to be what it is.
Bob Marley is going to be Bob Marley, whether he’s nominated for a Grammy or not. Tupac is going to be Tupac, Biggie is going to be Biggie.”
Rap has had a long history with the Grammys — whether its top performers like Eminem and Kanye West constantly losing in the major categories to rock, pop and country acts, or rap awards not making it on the televised show, though that’s changed in recent years.
Jay-Z has won 21 Grammys and has been nominated for 74. He is the top contender at Sunday’s show, competing for eight awards including album, song and record of the year.
The Brooklyn rapper was serenaded at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel by Alicia Keys, who performed a medley of his popular hits on piano, closing with their collaboration, “Empire State of Mind.”
“Before anything else I was a true fan of your music Jay, and still am. I will walk down the streets with my headphones on and my Tims and baggy jeans and your (music) was my soundtrack,” she said.