Alright, folks, let’s settle this once and for all: The Grammy Awards, or just Grammy – an award presented by the Recording Academy to recognize achievement in the music industry – are ever going to leave you (the culture) disappointed. Accept it, live it, and take it on the chin. It’s been the case since the award show’s inception and will always be that way from now until the end of time.
In 1984, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” won over Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”.
In 2005, not only did “Daughters” by John Mayer win over Kanye’s “Jesus Walks”, but he lost Best New Artist to… Maroon 5!
The same is the case in this era.
In back, to back, to back Grammys, there were snubs in the most important category of all: Album of the Year. In 2015, Beck’s Morning Phase was chosen over Beyoncé’s Beyoncé, in 2016, Taylor Swift’s 1989 won over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and in the following year, Adele’s 25 won over Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
This year, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Zayn Malik and Halsey snubbed the global prestigious award show, for so many reasons best-known and best explained by themselves.
For one, I couldn’t but agree. How we process the Grammys’ or any other award show’s disappointment, whether through outrage, disappointment or boycotting, is fine — it’s your prerogative. But what we shouldn’t do is get in our feelings and say: “The Grammys or this award show don’t matter.” Dismissing the award show is petty, lazy, and a lie we’re only saying to ourselves because whether it’s views, clicks, likes, RTs, Emmys, the Academy Awards, or Grammys, creatives are in it just as much for the public’s perception as they are their personal gratification.
While art is essentially incomplete without an audience, award shows are fairly (or equally) important because they serve as a measuring stick of sorts. No, they don’t set the standards, but they deem that they should be there. When artists win awards, they achieve universal recognition and a self-esteem boost that moves the culture, and art, forward. It’s why Rotten Tomatoes is successful, why folks are writing “four times award-winning wanker” on their bios, and why artists are moved to tears when they win awards. It’s why there’s an employee of the month award, and why we honour the best in music once a year — we want to be acknowledged for the work we put in. If that weren’t the case, these artists wouldn’t show up to the red carpet and we wouldn’t continually tune in and get enraged when our faves got snubbed.
Ironically, though our kin and kith in the States continue with their annual whining about the Recording Academy, African artists still consider it as a “big win”.
“This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world. This should be a lesson to every African out there: No matter where you are, no matter what you plan to do, you can achieve it,” said Afrobeats star Burna Boy as he accepted the 2021 Best Global Music Album award from his home in Lagos, Nigeria this week.
Talent manager, Kimani Moore, told CNN that Burna Boy’s win will inspire other African artistes to create projects that appeal to global audiences.
“He has set the pace…for the longest time, we (Africans) are seen on the same level as everybody else,” Moore said, adding that Burna Boy has “taken Afrobeats to the world.”
Others see Burna’s win as paving the way for a new generation of African artists who are creating their own unique sounds.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe -3,835 kilometres south of Nigeria – a young, emerging rap artist, beatboxer, and producer, Suhn, is constructing an immense following beyond his landlocked borders following the release of his newest single, “Twenties” in which he raps about bagging a Grammy by 2023.
Born Tafara Dondo, the twisted pretty-boy was formerly known as Union 5 but has since rebranded to Suhn, even going to the lees of removing his previous artist work under Union 5, creating a room for a fresh start under his new moniker.
In “Twenties”, which dropped earlier this month, Suhn is rapping about his goals for the 2020s. Among those, he anticipates winning a Grammy award and building a house in a leafy suburb. With looks that strikingly resemble those of American rapper Travis Scott, he is, at basic, part of the new crop artists bringing a different flavour to Zim-HipHop and at best, a case of an attempt to escape musical clichés but overwhelms with peculiar alternatives.
In February, he debuted on Nashtv’s hotspot with his track “Margielas”, a feature that cemented his rebrand. Since its release, the track has been streamed over 17,909 times on YouTube, and Suhn has been getting a lot of attention from fans and celebrities with his catchy, rapid-fire flows, enticing wordplay, and awesome production.
Imposing as he is, he looks like a cross between the school bully and the weeb that bully regularly victimized while throwing trap, heavy electronic aesthetics, and an impressive fearlessness into the blender. He’s also got a firm grasp on marketing himself — while he already has an innovative style of rapping, he hangs around with his associates Denimwoods and Probeatz on the Domtape web series, ensuring more exposure for himself. That’s turned into a real groundswell of support that may very well pay off big.
With “Twenties” fast becoming the cool kids’ anthem for 2021 and with his indifference, smooth vibe, and cool songs, there is much to be expected for Suhn this year. Given his musical success under both monikers and the amount of praise he’s received from fans and fellow creatives, he has the support he needs to keep his foot on his competition’s neck, and might even extend to getting him the Recording Academy award, let alone a nod.
But on a scale of one to ten, what are his chances of actually bagging a Grammy? Not that it is impossible for a Zimbabwean – Brian Soko, Bantu, King Isaac and Dr. Chaii, among several others, have shown that it is within reach.
While Suhn has a limited discography so far (well, one can win a Grammy with even half a song), but his potential is through the roof. He blows his fans away with his polished presentation and ability to rack up views in bunches. With a distinctive look — I know you see that hair — and an engaging style that justifies the attention, he looks like as much of a sure bet to blow up beyond Zimbabwe.
Contrariwise, it’s a tricky business to try to predict which artists are going to “blow up” judging by their overexuberance, braggadocio and lyrical over-ambitiousness. Even if you’re confident that someone’s buzz has reached the level that they can break through the mainstream’s radar ceiling, there are still the dark horses who come from seemingly nowhere to blow up “overnight,” the blind spots that keep critics (like me) from recognizing a rising star in the making before they go supernova, and the unexpected flameouts thanks to social media cancel culture or worse, the sudden demises of artists caught up in street life. For one thing, as we learned in 2020, a lot can happen in a year. The whole music industry can shut down, just like that, leaving a lot of up-and-coming names lost in the lurch when it comes to commercial success and public recognition.
Indeed, “Twenties” primes Suhn for his proverbial mango seasons and has a grassroots movement of fans eager to see what he comes out with next. Maybe he will slowly build his buzz over the course of 2021 and 2022, with a promised project prepared to push him over the top. Be that as it may, he may not be guaranteed to become the next No. 1-selling hitmakers or ubiquitous corporate pitch people with peers like fan-favoured Holy Ten on the horizon, but his fuse is lit and the target is set. Now all that remains is to see whether he can live up to the hype and really bring the noise, with the discourse constantly becoming, can he follow “Twenties” up with another bop?