NEW YORK – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had a rousing 2013 in hip-hop: The Source magazine named Macklemore its man of the year, the duo was Billboard’s top rap act and they took home most of the year’s key hip-hop trophies, from the MTV Video Music Awards to the American Music Awards. They even beat Jay Z and Kanye West in the best group category at the BET Awards.
The underground, independent Seattle group had made it, right? Not from the viewpoint of some members of the Recording Academy, according to a person who attended the general Grammy committee meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
While Macklemore & Lewis are up for seven honors at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, including album of the year and best rap album for the platinum seller The Heist, most rap committee members felt the duo shouldn’t qualify for the rap categories because of their success on mainstream radio and their appeal in the pop world, the source said.
Thrift Shop not only topped the rap charts, it was also one of the year’s biggest pop songs, selling 7.3 million tracks.
The group’s follow-up, Can’t Hold Us, helped assimilate their name in pop music when it hit the No. 1 spot and sold more than 5 million tracks.
But at a meeting held in Los Angeles late last year to discuss the Grammy categories, members of the rap committee declined their submissions.
At a meeting held a week later, members of the general Grammy committee discussed where Macklemore & Lewis should qualify, the source said.
The general committee, which includes members from jazz, country, pop, rock and other genres, listened to their album to determine where they fit.
Because of the controversy with them as a rap group it became something the entire Grammy committee discussed, the person said.
A general committee vote decided the group should compete for rap awards. The source said it was a landslide vote and that veto of the rap committee’s decision wasn’t a common occurrence.
A representative for the Recording Academy didn’t return an email seeking comment, and the performers weren’t available for interviews.
Macklemore & Lewis’ seven Grammy nominations include best rap album, rap song and rap performance for Thrift Shop, album of the year, song of the year for Same Love and best new artist.
Their manager used an expletive to describe the rap category debate.
If you strip away being influenced by the popularity or by who their fans are or by the amount of radio traction their songs got ... and just dissect musically what it is, there’s no question it’s a hip-hop album; they’re hip-hop songs, said Zach Quillen, who didn’t attend any of the Grammy meetings. When you start to look at other things (that) is when people’s judgment got cloudy. It’s what they look like, the demographic, the fan base, it’s the popularity, it’s the radio.