When the Recording Academy announced the Grammy nominations on Tuesday morning, many people focused on the long-overdue de-centering of white dudes, confusion over credits, and perceived snubs of legendary rap groups.
But Q-Tip wasn't the only hip-hop artist who deserved, but didn't receive, a nomination. In the category of Producer of the Year, Non-Classical (a category so far down the list that it appears on page 43 of the nominations), the five nominees have all done great work and are worthy of the distinction. There's Calvin Harris, acknowledged for his album (and one DJ Khaled tune, oddly). Also nominated is last year's winner Greg Kurstin, whose discography of rock, pop, and that one Kendrick Lamar song is beyond reproach.
Also up for the golden gramophone is Blake Mills, go-to guy for singer-songwriters like Perfume Genius, John Legend, and Laura Marling; 4:44 and The Autobiography mastermind No I.D.; and the four-person collective known as the Stereotypes, who produced beyond-catchy tunes for Lil Yachty, Iggy Azalea, Kyle, Fifth Harmony, Bruno Mars, and more.
Sounds good, right? What could possibly be missing?
Well, think of the songs that really moved the needle this year (or, to get Grammy-eligible-technical about it, between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2017): "Bad and Boujee." "Mask Off." "Tunnel Vision." "Bounce Back."
Look back on the projects you couldn't wait for. Droptopwop. Issa Album. Perfect Timing.
And who were the artists you were checking for? The Weeknd. Lana Del Rey. Travis Scott. Lil Uzi Vert.
What do all of these have in common? Well, if you've made it this far, you've undoubtedly figured it out: Metro Boomin.
Young Metro’s been overdue for a nod since at least 2015, but this year he has rappers coming to him for full-length projects and knocking each one out of the park—he gave Gucci his best album post-prison, as well as providing the best beats on a series of projects from rap's biggest names, and has at least one more equally impressive card up his sleeve before the year is out. At the very least, the simple components of Metro’s sound have come to shape a majority of mainstream rap music, and considering his commercial success (he was behind the number one hit "Bad and Boujee" and Future's "Mask Off), deep catalog, and critical acclaim (he won the BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards Producer of the Year award the last two years in a row), it seems easy to mark him as one of the top five producers of the year in any (non-classical) genre.
And he's not without competition for biggest snub in the producer category. An almost-as-glaring exclusion is that of Mike Will Made-It, who’s all over DAMN, one of the Grammy’s Albums of the Year as well as Record of the Year (and twice nominated elsewhere) “HUMBLE.” And Mike doesn’t just have fingerprints on the albums the Grammy board considers catnip, he’s logging time in pop as well. His wide catalog, and the sheer experimental value of the weird, outer rim sounds he has been exploring with the Sremm brothers, have made him a consistent near-miss for nearly five years now.
Of course, the explanation for all these exclusions could be a simple one: hip-hop is only getting one nomination in this Producer of the year category. And, in that case, the choice the Academy made is a solid one. We can’t overlook No I.D.’s 2017. Not only is he a veteran long overdue for love, the kind of narrative award show voters love, but he single-handedly delivered 4:44 into existence. The svengali who teased and co-piloted an Album of the Year quality project out of Jay in the first place. It's a focused, staggering achievement, and the kind of achievement that gives him a potential edge over the all-encompassing work the restlessly productive Metro Boomin. And that's before you get to Dion's work on another Roc release, Vic Mensa’s impressive debut album, The Autobiography. (The beat on “Say I Didn’t” is just as beautiful as anything on 4:44).
We can only hope that next year, the Grammys start showing hip-hop some respect beyond the odd Album of the Year nomination (they could start by consistently televising the rap awards) and give producers who make commercially viable, well-respected, varied music (that happens to mostly feature talking, rather than singing) the acknowledgement they deserve.