With the 57th Annual Grammy Awards only days away, GlobalGrind’s taking a trip down memory lane to look back at some of the award show’s most controversial moments.
From Ol’ Dirty Bastard storming the Grammy stage, to news of Chris Brown and Rihanna’s domestic violence incident, every moment of controversy has made the Grammys one of the most interesting award shows on the planet.
Throughout its history, the show has been filled with unapologetic rudeness, controversial performances, red carpet faux pas, and unfortunately, death.
Over the past decade, the topic of white appropriation of black music has been looming over the Grammys and the Academy’s willingness to award “less talented” white artists over their black counterparts.
The debate is still unsettled, but last year became a pivotal moment for the cultural appropriation discussion when Macklemore’s The Heist won “Best Rap Album” over Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d city. The Grammy upset ended with Macklemore making it known that he didn’t “deserve” the award and posting a private text message between him and Kendrick on Instagram.
Yeah, not good.
We’re sure this year will be just as interesting with Iggy Azalea being nominated in multiple hip-hop categories. The 57th Annual Grammy Awards are set to go down on CBS this Sunday, February 8 at 8 p.m. EST.
These are the 15 Most Controversial Moments in Grammy History…
15. Macklemore sends Kendrick Lamar an “apology” text for winning the “Best Rap Album” category and posts it on Instagram.
Due to the success of pop singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore and his producing partner Ryan Lewis pulled out an upset in almost all the urban/hip-hop categories. The Academy awarded the Seattle duo with a gramophone for the coveted “Best Rap Album” category, and well, all hell broke loose.
Despite Macklemore’s hit singles, Kendrick Lamar’s debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city was touted as the best hip-hop album in 2013 by critics and fans.
Feeling like he “robbed” Kendrick, Macklemore sent him a long-winded text apologizing for his whiteness (basically).
The text message reads as follows:
Posting his apology text to Kendrick on social media probably wasn’t the best idea, but we’ll blame the lapse in judgment on “white guilt.”
14. Billy Joel stops his performance of “River Of Dreams” to waste Grammy commercial time.
To protest the Grammys’ bad habit of cutting artists’ acceptance speeches short, Billy Joel decided to take things into his own hands.
After Frank Sinatra was awarded the coveted “Lifetime Achievement” award and his tribute was cut short, Billy Joel decided to waste valuable commercial time when he stopped his performance of “River Of Dreams,” to say:
“Valuable advertising time going by. Valuable advertising time going by. Dollars, dollars, dollars.”
Watch his ballsy stunt below.
13. Bob Dylan gets “Soy Bombed.”
During his 1998 Grammy performance, Bob Dylan got “soy bombed.” A “performance artist” hired to serve as a background dancer, Michael “Soy Bomb” Portnoy, decided to rip his shirt off and crash Bob Dylan’s performance by spastically dancing around like a crazed maniac.
Bob Dylan kept cool and seemed reasonably unfazed by the interruption. Due to Michael “Soy Bomb” Portnoy’s actions, CBS refused to pay him his $200 background dancers’ fee.
Watch Bob Dylan get “soy bombed” below.
12. Chris Brown and Rihanna return to the Grammys together four years after their pre-show domestic violence incident.
Chris Brown and Rihanna told us it was “nobody’s business” regarding their personal life, but after their very public domestic violence incident occurred before the Grammys exactly four years earlier, many fans and activists begged to differ.
The two star-crossed lovers showed up at the 2013 Grammys looking better than ever, but a big pink elephant loomed over their surprising reunion. Although most people disapproved of their rekindled romance, Chris and Rihanna’s decision to make their love public again is still one of the boldest moves ever.
11. Ol’ Dirty Bastard storms the Grammy stage.
Unhappy about being snubbed not once, but twice, during the 1998 Grammys, Wu-Tang Clan’s most charismatic member Ol’ Dirty Bastard decided he wanted to send a message.
After losing to Puff Daddy in the “Best Rap Album” category, Wu-Tang’s loss to singer Shawn Colvin in the “Song Of The Year” category took him over the edge.
Upset, ODB stormed the Grammy stage to drop some surprising knowledge about Wu-Tang’s influence on America’s future generations.
ODB’s speech went a little something like this:
“I went and bought me an outfit today that cost me a lot of money, because I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children/ We teach the children. Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best. I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all, peace.”
ODB was ushered off the stage, and Shawn Colvin was eventually able to give her acceptance speech.
Watch the awkward moment below.
10. Nicki Minaj arrives with “the Pope.”
Rapper Nicki Minaj stirred up controversy when she arrived to the Grammys with an actor dressed up as the Pope. The Catholic Church was outraged and accused Nicki of sacrilege and blasphemy.
Things only got worse when YMCMB performed “Roman Holiday” on stage, which included images of a Catholic priest performing an exorcism.
Watch the weird performance below.
9. Kanye West’s epic Grammy speech.
Controversial rapper Kanye West made a huge splash at the 2005 Grammys when he won the “Best Rap Album” award.
When he went up to accept his award for debut album, The College Dropout, Kanye delivered a pretty dope speech.
He kicked it off by saying:
“Y’all might as well get the music ready, because this is finna take awhile. When I had my accident, I found out at that moment that nothing in life is promised except death.
If you have the opportunity to play this game of life you need to appreciate every moment. A lot of people don’t appreciate their moment until has passed…but umm, right now, it’s my time and my moment.
Thanks to the fans. Thanks to the accident. Thanks to God. Thanks to Roc-a-fella, Jay-Z, Dame Dash, my mother, Rhymefest, and everyone that’s helped me.
And I plan to celebrate. I plan to celebrate and scream and pop champagne every chance I get, ’cause I’m at the Grammys baby!
I know everybody asked me the question “what’s Kan gon do…I know he’s going to wild out or do something crazy.’ Everybody wanted to know what I’d do if I didn’t win.
I guess we’ll never know.”
Check out Kanye’s speech below.
8. Jennifer Lopez’s controversial green Versace dress.
At the 2000 Grammys, Jennifer Lopez made many people blush when she arrived on the red carpet wearing a sheer green Versace dress that left very little to the imagination.
Between the plunging neckline and the thigh-high slit, J.Lo’s dress remains the most talked about Grammy outfit of all time.
Due to dresses like Jennifer’s, CBS officials have now asked attendees to follow a specific “wardrobe advisory” policy, which prohibits such outfits.
7. 50 Cent interrupts Evanescence’s Grammy speech.
At the 2004 Grammys, 50 Cent interrupted rock group Evanescence’s Grammy speech when they beat him in the “Best New Artist” category.
Upset that he didn’t win the award, he decided to rain on their parade with a noteworthy interruption. Luckily, lead singer Amy Lee brushed off the incident and continued to deliver her acceptance speech.
6. Will Smith, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, and Russell Simmons boycott the Grammys.
Despite the strides hip-hop music has made over the past two decades, things weren’t always copacetic. In 1989, Will Smith, along with other hip-hop artists, led a boycott of the Grammys due to the award show’s decision to not televise hip-hop categories.
Will and his hip-hop comrades protested the award show, and the next year, the Grammys specifically invited them back for a televised performance.
5. Nas and Kelis show up on the Grammy red carpet wearing clothing with the word “nigger.”
When rapper Nas and his then-wife Kelis showed up on the 2008 Grammy red carpet wearing shirts with the racial epithet “n*gger,” the world was shocked.
Nas, who was promoting the title of his forthcoming new album, sparked a very deep public debate over use of the n-word.
Nas insisted on titling his album the n-word, and urged the public to become more comfortable with it. Organizations like the NAACP made it very clear they disagreed with the Illmatic rapper’s logic.
Due to this Grammy red carpet episode, CBS officials have included “offensive language” in their 2013 “Wardrobe Advisory” policy.
4. Milli Vanilli fool the Grammys.
“Blame It On The Rain” duo Milli Vanilli received a Grammy for “Best New Artist” at the 1990 ceremony. When Chuck Philips of The LA Times revealed that the lead vocals were not the voices of Rob Pilatus and Frank Farian, rumors began to swirl about the duo’s credibility.
In 1990, Frank Farian admitted to the Academy that the rumors were true and that neither contributed any vocals to their album. Four days later, the Grammys stripped the duo of their awards.
3. Eminem and Elton John join forces.
Controversial rapper Eminem’s career was at an all-time high in 2001. After releasing The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem began to receive criticism from the LGBT community for his use of homophobic slurs.
Eminem maintained he wasn’t homophobic, but it wasn’t until the 2001 Grammys when openly gay legend Elton John joined Eminem on stage to perform “Stan,” that the homophobic allegations were officially put to rest.
At the end of the performance, Eminem and Elton John hugged it out and proved there was nothing wrong with being gay.
2. Chris Brown & Rihanna’s Domestic Violence Incident.
The 2009 Grammys weekend seemed to be going as planned, until news spread that R&B sweethearts Rihanna and Chris Brown were involved in a brutal domestic violence incident on the eve of the ceremony.
The report revealed that 19-year-old Chris Brown viciously attacked his 20-year-old girlfriend Rihanna after the two young lovers got into a verbal argument.
Things escalated quickly when an officer from the LAPD leaked graphic photos of Rihanna’s beaten and bloody face.
Subsequently, Rihanna, who was scheduled to make an appearance at the awards, had to cancel her appearance.
1. Whitney Houston Dies.
On the eve of the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony, R&B legend Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton only hours before the annual Clive Davis Grammy Pre-Party.
The music community was shocked and horrified to learn the 48-year-old singer passed away after a long struggle with prescription drugs.
With the sad news of Whitney’s untimely death, the directors of the Grammys scrambled to put together a tribute for the fallen singer only hours before the show was set to air.
Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson sang Whitney Houston’s classic record “I Will Always Love You” for what’s been considered one of the most emotional ceremonies in award show history.
PHOTO CREDIT: GettyImages