When the final Grammy nominations were announced in November, Kanye West got five nods, including album of the year, a possible reconciliation between one of pop music’s most mercurial stars and the institution he’s widely criticized for the past two decades, defiantly. and sometimes downright insulting — even if West has longed for his confirmation.
But last Friday, just over two weeks before the 64th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, scheduled for April 3 in Las Vegas — and weeks of negotiating a scheduled appearance on the show — organizers told West’s team he wouldn’t be allowed to. performance , according to a representative of the rapper and producer.
Organizers cited West’s erratic and disturbing behavior in recent weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the decision, who was given anonymity to discuss an internal matter.
That behavior included the release of an animated music video depicting the kidnapping and burial of a figure who looked a lot like Pete Davidson — the comedian who has been in a relationship with West’s former wife Kim Kardashian — and an Instagram post featuring Trevor Noah. of “The Daily Show,” which hosts this year’s Grammys, with a racist comment that led to West being banned from Instagram for 24 hours. (Noah said on Twitter that he had not called for West’s termination. “I said counsel Kanye is not canceling Kanye,” he said. wrote†
For West, music’s eternal chaos agent, the episode may have been just the last blur of sensational headlines. But for the Grammys, it’s also a setback in a campaign to lure West back to the fold. He’s arguably the vociferous of a circle of high-profile black makers — including Jay-Z, Drake, the Weekend, and Frank Ocean — who have condemned the Grammys for often failing to recognize the work of makers of color, particularly in hip. -hop, in the most talked-about categories.
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The ceremony, originally scheduled for January 31, was postponed for the second year in a row due to Covid and is now scheduled for April 3.
The Recording Academy, which presents the awards, has made extraordinary efforts to accommodate West, who has won 22 Grammys in his career. Before the final show, a last-minute rule change saw West added to the vote for album of the year.
In an interview with Billboard, Harvey Mason Jr., the academy’s director, said that when the first nominee list was drawn up with eight contenders in the major leagues, he noticed a lack of rap in the top categories. Within days, a proposal to expand the ballot to 10 places in those categories was approved by the academy’s board, putting “Danda,” along with Taylor Swift’s “Evermore,” into consideration for best album.
Since becoming head of the academy last year, Mason has personally appealed to deviant artists, including West. That outreach, and the nomination for album of the year, sparked frustration and anger among some members of the academy, who were appalled by West’s antics of the past, such as posting a video to social media in 2020 that shows seeing a Grammy trophy apparently tarnished in a toilet bowl.
“How mean and disrespectful,” said Diane Warren, the Grammy-winning songwriter of hits like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” said at the time.
West’s recent behavior on social media has made repairing fences even more risky for the Recording Academy. Always an oversharer, West has lately been using his Instagram account to voice grievances over custody and childcare issues during his divorce from Kardashian. That dispute has coincided with West’s attacks on Davidson, as well as figures like Noah who criticized the musician’s posts as bordering on threats and intimidation.
Still, for the Recording Academy, a reconciliation with West could have symbolic power, suggesting that the institution’s efforts to renew its voice membership and adapt to a faster-evolving music business with a younger, more diverse audience were working.
West’s complaints about the Grammys go back at least 17 years. In 2005, even before that year’s nominations were announced, West told Grammy voters that if he didn’t win Album of the Year for “Late Registration,” his second LP, he would attribute the loss to a judgment of his own personal ability. behavior rather than his artistry.
“I don’t care if I jump on the couch like Tom Cruise now,” he told MTV News at the time. “I don’t care how much I stunt — you can never take anything away from the amount of work I put into it.” (He lost to U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.”)
Since then, West’s criticism of the Grammys has been sporadic, but unrelenting. In 2015, for instance, after Beck won Album of the Year for “Morning Phase,” West demanded that the alt-rock musician give the award to Beyoncé, following his infamous moment with Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. He warned that such choices from Grammy voters would alienate “real artists.”
“Because what happens is,” West said, “if you keep diminishing art and disrespecting the craft and punching people in the face after they deliver monumental musical feats — it’s disrespectful to inspiration.”
While West won’t be performing at the Grammys this year, he’s still being invited to attend as a nominee – which is a tricky problem for the academy if West wins a major award, such as album of the year. Would he use the opportunity of a live television speech to make more incendiary comments, either about his personal life or about the Grammys themselves?
As a safeguard for the show’s producers and for CBS, the old broadcast network of the Grammys, editing delays are built into the show by default. For example, in 2017, the Grammy audience heard Adele utter a frustrated profanity after she misjudged the opening of a tribute to George Michael; people watching at home heard only beeps.
Joe Coscarelli contributed to reporting.