#BRITsSoWhite: UK Music Industry Dismissive of Its Own Black Artists
It looks like film fans aren’t the only ones not happy with the lack of diversity among award nominees. Nominations for the BRIT Awards, the UK’s pop music awards that are equivalent to our Grammys, have recently been released, and there are many who aren’t happy with the overwhelming whiteness of the nominees. Especially when they’ve seemingly left out hip-hop and grime, genres that had a great 2015, and when deadlines were extended to give white artists (like Adele) the chance to be nominated in a year when they normally wouldn’t have qualified according to their own rules.
It isn’t that there were zero black people nominated – just not any British ones. The BRITs have categories for “International Male Solo Artist” and “International Group” in which artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and Alabama Shakes were nominated (there were no women of color among the “International Female Solo Artist” nominees). Because apparently black or other people of color…don’t make music in Britain?
— Emmanuel Aremu (@earemu) January 15, 2016
As reported by Buzzfeed, nominees traditionally had to have been in the Top 40 in either the single or album chart between mid-July and November. However, this year they extended their dates for eligibility from July 21st, 2014 to December 10th, 2015, which allowed pop juggernaut Adele (whose album 25 was released on November 20th) to qualify. She ended up getting nominated four times.
Was that a smart move on the part of the BRIT Awards to guarantee the appearance of one of the biggest names in music right now on their show? Sure, I guess. But they could’ve also had that appearance next year (I doubt the Adele-hype is gonna die down any time soon). Meanwhile the move has pretty much shafted other British artists (several of color) in other genres who also had a big year this year but, because of a lack of exposure by their own industry, might not be a guarantee for next year.
But it isn’t only white superstars like Adele that have achieved the BRITs’ favor. White artists who didn’t receive nearly the attention, or the sales, that Adele did got nominated over bigger-selling artists of color:
Wolf Alice (all white) release an album that doesn’t even make Gold Certification, and are nominated for best breakthrough act #BritsSoWhite
— Russo (@_Russolini) January 15, 2016
One of those bigger-selling and history-making artists was UK rapper Stormzy, who became the first-ever UK rapper to chart with a freestyle last year (and has that even happened here in the US? Someone school me!).
He won Best Male Act and Best Grime Act at the MOBO Awards, and has previously won the BET Award for Best International Act…but apparently things like “Making Hip-Hop History” don’t matter to an organization that doesn’t seem to value homegrown UK hip-hop and grime as genres.
Jasmine Dotiwala, executive editor of community channel London360 and former head of MTV Base spoke to the fact that the organization seems “out of touch” with genres they don’t consider “safe”:
[M]ost of my peers, who are journalists on the voting academy, reassure me that whilst they nominate black and/or grime artists every year, their nominations never make it through, unless it’s a non-threatening white act like Professor Green. They also told me that most of their academy are much older, middle class, music stalwarts who, while great music influencers in their own rights, are totally unconnected or engaged with the British black music scene. To these voters, grime and hip-hop is an alien [art] form they just don’t understand and therefore won’t vote for.
I mean, how can names like Skepta and Stormzy be dominating digital news internationally, and not be acknowledged by their own national industry?
How indeed? Any UK readers out there wanna shed some light on all this? Let’s chat in the comments below!
(image via BRIT Awards)
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—