Handicapping the Grammys' Urban/Alternative Category

Once again, the Grammys' Urban/Alternative category continues the Recording Academy's tradition of rewarding minor innovation, if you can call the nominees that.  Baby steps to the left are all I see.  Or, this year continues the Grammy tradition of highlighting artists who only take baby steps to the left.  It's like this category has become a consolation entry for artists who aren't moving big numbers and thus can't compete in the big categories.   And as I wrote last year, the majority of black folks wouldn't know what real alternative artists look or sound like.  And, if that's the case, you certainly can't expect The Recording Academy to be forward-looking.  After all, the voting body of the Academy is made of folks who are all up the in the commercial end of the music industry.

Anyway, here's the down 'n' dirty as I see it:

  • Tonex. Nothing alternative about a brotha singing about Jesus.  Reaally long odds here.
  • India.Arie. A weak remake of a Sade song?  This shouldn't win, but the know-nothings in the Academy are star-fuckers, and it may turn out that they were lazy and went with a recognizable name.
  • Eric Roberson.  Gotta give it to him: This is one hard-workin' brotha.   He might be in contention simply because he didn't make it into the Male R&B category, in which the contenders look like Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton and Charlie Wilson.  But, at the end of the day, he's an R&B singer.  Hardly alternative.
  • Robert Glasper & Bilal. I guess in the current environment of mostly whack commercial R&B, jazz looks alternative.  Another consolation nomination, as Glasper would be up against heavyweights in the various jazz categories such as Joe Zawinal, Chick Corea, John Pattucci and, I'm happy to say, Allen Toussaint.
  • The Foreign Exchange.  This is who SHOULD win.  "Daykeeper" is refreshingly introspective.  It's a odd-metered gem that achieves a serious, yet understated headnod.  The album it's on Leave It All Behind, is somewhat hit or miss for my tastes, but this song is clearly the standout.

Anyway, guess we'll find out soon.

BTW, if you want a list of some real alternatives to tonight's nominees, check out these lists.

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