Why Did Will Smith Boycott The Grammys In The 80s?

Will Smith
Emeka Ochiagha
July 1, 2021

Will Smith and music partner DJ Jazzy Jeff were fed up. 1988 was the year of hip-hop. There were nearly a dozen platinum hip-hop albums and countless successful rap tours. Multiple TV shows dedicated to this once-controversial genre. And by the end of the year, the Grammys announced a new category for their 1989 awards – Best Rap song!

But there was one catch.

“(We were told) they aren’t going to televise the category. What do you mean you’re not going to televise it?” Jeff said in a recent interview with VIBE. “That sh*t don’t make sense. How you not going to televise it?”

Jeff and Smith decided rather than accept the disrespect, they’d just boycott the show!

It wasn’t about the award itself. It was about fighting for respect for this art form that Black people had created, together, underground – that gave voice to the Black experience. Out of nothing and out of nowhere, it was changing culture. That deserved major acclaim.

Smith and Jeff would end up winning the very first Rap Grammy – but they were not there to receive it. A loud message was sent.

While institutional approval is overrated, it is important for Black children to see other Black people being praised for creating something. The West Philly duo made sure a generation could grow up seeing that positive image on screen and be inspired!

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