Trophies are important, but they aren't everything

Niggas know the time when Quest is in the jam
I never let a statue tell me how nice I am
— Phife Dawg, "Award Tour"

We all seek validation. It's human nature. Whether it's in the boardroom or on the ball court, the validation of our efforts is what we strive for as competitive beings. Accomplishments can reinforce our belief that the goal that you are working so hard towards is obtainable and is not done in vain.

More often than not, awards are seen as tangible markers of success on various levels. Performance-based awards typically get dished out on an annual basis. Year in and year out, this incentivizes the hardest working individuals to put out maximum effort for maximum recognition (and a little pay bump) in their respective fields. But at the end of the day, awards don't entirely define your career.



The 2018 GRAMMYs on Sunday marks the 60th edition of this storied ceremony, celebrating the creative talents in music today. There has been a consensus among casual and avid music fans that the Recording Academy finally got their nominees right this year. Well-deserving established artists such as JAY-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars dominated the nominations. But it was a shock in the best way possible to see acts such as Childish Gambino, SZA, 6LACK, and Daniel Caesar receive nods when in past years they may have been overlooked by the Academy.

It's not like these nominations were all just lazily brushed under the rug of "Best Urban Contemporary" (we see you with that category); rather, you have 4:44  getting nominated for Song of the Year next to Despacito, and DAMN in the same category as Melodrama. This is a sign that the Recording Academy is finally paying attention to the voices that have been shouting at them for years: incorporate some non-industry manufactured culture into the mix of the selection process.

Yet, on GRAMMY night, many people will inevitably feel like their favorite musician will have been snubbed after the presenter reads "and the winner is..." (quick aside: it's complete bullshit that A Tribe Called Quest got snubbed with a nomination for "We Got it from Here...".) Everybody can't win, but that doesn't mean everybody lost. Winning a golden piece of hardware can be viewed as the highest form of flattery, especially in the music industry. It shouldn't be the only moment in one's career that defines them. The primary goal shouldn't be getting that trophy by any means necessary; it should be to create the best content that'll stand the test of time and let the fruits of the labor fall where they may.

Recognition from peers and loyal fans are most paramount. A snub during the nomination or award process will generate buzz around the artist regardless. Outraged fans who religiously listened to completed projects will cape on behalf of the deserving party. As the late great Phife Dawg spit in "Award Tour," can't we appreciate someone's skills without seeing them on the acceptance stage? That's not to say that winning an award is extremely useless; it can be a certification that'll lead to future opportunities for the artist. But, it's not the end-all-be-all.

If a rapper got slighted when nominees were chosen, does that all of sudden mean their bars are mid? If a soulful crooner lost to the biggest pop-star in the world at the moment, does it all of a sudden mean their vocal pitches are trash? Fuck outta here. Snoop Dogg never won. Nas never won. Even though they received Lifetime Achievement awards posthumously, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Tupac never won for their studio albums. It's an open secret that industry politics play a large role in the selection process for nominations and especially so for the award selections. Many people with dope projects have been overlooked because they weren't affiliated with a major label that has leverage and pull when it comes to these things.

The Culture should really commend Chance for his efforts in pressuring the Academy to recognize free music releases because that now opens up the avenue for other deserving creatives to get noticed by an Academy member who'd overlook 'em otherwise. It makes the field not limited to structured, industry-type boundaries. It must be painful spending hours, weeks, months, if not years into a single project, only to be "ignored" by the GRAMMYs. Trophies and certificates of nomination can enhance awareness, but getting championed and admonished by your peers and your fans - the ones who truly care about the lasting impact of the content - should satisfy the validation aspect of the work.